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The best leggings for running: for trail running, track time and road running

best leggings for running
(Image credit: Brooks Monumental Thermal Tights)

When it comes to the best leggings for running, there’s a lot of choice out there, offering a wide range of comfort, fit, conveniences, and even performance boosting properties. Good thing, too, because as women, we come in every shape and size, and our running styles, tastes and routines are as individual as we are.

When it comes to our leggings, some of us like the feel or look of high compression, while others find it constraining, preferring a looser-fitting style. Maybe sleek, black tights make you feel zippy, or maybe you love making a striking, brightly colored statement with your tights. Whatever your specific preferences, you’ll definitely want to consider some crucial elements, including fit, materials, ventilation, durability, and storage.

The good news is, what you want is out there, it’s just a question of knowing what to look for and, more importantly, what you’re buying. To make that task easier, we’ve spent time testing a variety of women’s running leggings from a variety of price points to help you find the perfect pair.

Our focus in this roundup is on tights appropriate for cold-weather running. All are full-length, although they come in a variety of crops and hem lengths, and there’s even a hybrid pants/tights blend in the mix. We covered many fun miles of dirt, road and track in order to test how these best leggings for running perform on the move.

The best leggings for running you can buy today

best running leggings

(Image credit: Gymshark Speed Leggings)

Gymshark Speed Leggings

Supple, featherlight leggings that allow total freedom of movement

RRP: £40 (UK)/$45 (US) | Sizes: XS-XL | Colours: Teal/Black/Pink | Materials: 78% polyester, 22% elastane | Length: 26.5in / 67cm (XS)

Silky, lightweight feel
Shape-boosting fit
Excellent value
Less breathable than some
No reflective elements

Combining a lightweight feel with a compressive cling, these silky high-waisted leggings are a great choice for runners who like their tights flexi, sleek and uber-light. The texture is nothing short of luxurious. The soft waistband is wide and comfortable across the abdomen, and the flatlock seams mean no worries about fabric chafing skin. Gymshark Speed Leggings are also wonderfully stretchy. They’re easy to pull on, yet hold their shape mile after mile – no baggy knees or sagging, stretched-out seats. Speaking of seats, the flattering cut does a nice job of booty-rounding, which we appreciated. Two deep side pockets accommodate your stash, including a large phone. Petite runners will appreciate the length – a shorter inseam means a flattering, wrinkle-free line down the leg. The material is thin but not at all sheer, so you can confidently do your post-run stretching in them. They also stand up well to cooler temps by keeping warmth in, although, on the flip side, they don’t breathe well when runs get sweaty.

best leggings for running

(Image credit: adidas Believe This 2.0 3 Stripes 7/8 Leggings)

Adidas Believe This 2.0 3 Stripes 7/8 Leggings

Sporty, functional and super-comfortable never go out of style

RRP: £55 (UK only) | Sizes: Range of sizes | Colours: Range of colors | Materials: 64% nylon, 36% elastane | Length: 7/8 crop

Comfortable for both running and lounging 
Super-comfortable materials
Great value
Limited storage
Runs small

These high-rise, stripy leggings have a slick look that just makes you feel fast, and offer a good balance between compression and comfort. While snug enough to stay firmly put on the run, their suppleness allows for lots of give, so you won’t feel squeezed or stuffed in like a sausage. The Adidas Believe This 2.0 3 Stripes 7/8 Leggings are particularly forgiving and comfy at the broad waistband, where expansion was appreciated as we gasped for air between intervals. The fabric is smooth and stretchy, and we found them as appealing for streetwear and lounging as for running. The silhouette is flattering, with long, lean stripes down the leg adding length, and a 7/8 crop ensuring material isn’t bunched at the ankles. And while we didn’t find the material very breathable, the cropped length lets the ankle peek out, providing aeration while still offering good cool-weather coverage. Storage is very limited, with just one tiny, zipperless pocket in back that is sufficient for keys or a credit card, but not much more. Take note, these run a tad small, so if you are between sizes, consider sizing up.

best leggings for running

(Image credit: Brooks Monumental Thermal Tights)

Brooks Monumental Thermal Tights

Technically advanced fabrics ensure you’ll stay toasty and cozy in cold temps

RRP: £90 (UK) | Sizes: XS–XXL | Colour: Black | Materials: 85% polyester, 15% spandex | Length: 28in/71cm (XS)

Superbly insulated 
Fleecy feel
Great storage
Less stretchy than some
Not ventilated

If you don’t want the cold to squelch your run plans, turn to Brooks Monumental Thermal Tights, your go-to tights for frosty winter runs. Thicker than a standard tight, these are warmly insulated, with interior material that feels soft and fleecy against your legs. They can get a little too warm if the workout is demanding or temps warm up. While the fabric is breathable and wicks away sweat well, we would have loved a mesh panel or zippered ankle to ventilate a bit if needed. Fit is semi-compressive and slim. While too dense for a ‘second skin’ feel, the Monumental Thermal Tights are supple and fit very well, without sag. That said, they are less stretchy than some, and run a tad narrow. Storage is plentiful, with two side pockets, large enough for a phone, as well as a slit pocket in back for keys or credit card. Pockets are zipper-free, using elasticity to keep items close.

best leggings for running

(Image credit: Saucony Fortify Tight)

Saucony Fortify Tight

These sturdy tights are tough on the elements yet gentle and super-comfortable to wear

RRP: $85 (US) / £78 (UK) | Sizes: XXS-XL | Colour: Black | Materials: 79% recycled Polyester, 21% Spandex | Length: 26.5in/67cm (XS)

Great mix of compression and comfort
Warm but ventilated
Good protection from elements
Recycled materials
Only available in black

The Saucony Fortify Tight is one tough customer, in the best way. While not marketed as weather-busting, we found the dense polyester/spandex weave was not only warm, but also a hardy shield against cold, blustery and even moist conditions. Sometimes denser leggings can fit a bit droopily, but we found the Fortify consistently compressive. This mid-rise tight has a comfortable, wide waistband, and airy mesh panels at the ankle that offer ventilation. We loved the length, which is full but not overly long. They have good storage too, with two expansive side pockets that securely hold your cargo. One tester started a run with keys in the pockets, soon adding a phone, arm sleeves and two gel packs, and all stayed firmly put, neither weighing down the tights nor bouncing uncomfortably about. These are priced quite a bit below some of the other best leggings for running on our list, and while not inexpensive, they seem a bargain at the price, delivering in a variety of conditions, from late fall all the way through to early spring.

best running leggings

(Image credit: On Running Pants)

On Running Pants

So versatile, functional and comfortable, you may never go back to tights

RRP: £135 (UK)/ $170 (US) | Sizes: XS-XL | Colour: Shadow | Materials: Main: 86% polyester, 14% elastane

High-quality, highly durable mix of materials
Water-repellent
Easy-wearing, athletic fit
Pricey
Loose pockets

The cooler months bring moisture of the chilling kind – snow, fog, mist and rain – and temperatures that can leave you wet and shivering on the trails. Running in waterproof gear, however, can quickly become a sweaty, uncomfortable affair. Enter the On Running Pant, a half-pant/half-tights hybrid that is a comfy and clever refuge against the elements. Mixing water-repellent properties, sturdy and stretchy materials, and strategic mesh, these pants work like a ventilated windbreaker, allowing air to circulate while keeping you shielded from rain and wind. The easy-wearing fit is stretchy at the waist (which can be tightened with a drawstring) and they fit more like tights from calf to hem, with a zipped ankle. There are two ample pockets, but articles bounce a bit, especially heavier ones such as phones, and we wished the pockets had been tighter or elasticized. These are pricey, but their smart engineering and quality materials make them so versatile, comfortable and easy to move in that you are certain to get a lot of use out of them, both on race day and rest day.

best leggings for running

(Image credit: lululemon Fast and Free High-Rise Tight 25”)

Lululemon Fast and Free High-Rise Tight 25”

A high-performing running tight that is as eye-catching and flattering as it is functional

RRP: $128 (US) / Only 7/8 crop version available in UK (£70) | Sizes: US sizes 0-14 | Colours: navy/bronze/violet/black/green/earth | Materials: Nulux fabric | Length: 25in / 63.5cm

Flexible
Super-soft 
Plentiful storage
Pricey

Lululemon is known for yoga tights that are made to move, flatter and feel great in, and there’s no reason to contain that to the studio. While some yoga pants are not suited to running, the Fast and Free is designed with high-impact running in mind. We took them through tough workouts and loved how the flexible fabric stretched and molded to movement like a second skin, staying firmly in place without feeling tight. While well suited to cooler temperatures, they aren’t suffocating during a workout, wicking away moisture like a champ. The gentle high-rise waistband is like a reassuring hug, and the continuous drawstring ensures you won’t be tugging these up every time you bend over or bounce. Multiple waistband pockets and two side pockets mean plenty of spots to stash your stuff. If you crave street style, these are definitely eye-catching, coming in an appealing variety of colors and a form-fitting cut. Shorter runners will appreciate the 25” length, which ensures a long, smooth line down the leg, without bunching at the ankle or knee.  While on the spendier end of the spectrum, the Fast and Free is durable and high-quality, and if you like yoga, then maybe it can even do double duty.

best running leggings

(Image credit: Under Armour RUSH Run Stamina Tight)

Under Armour RUSH Run Stamina Tight

A springy, energizing legging with a lot of science behind it

RRP: £75 (UK)/ $90 (US) | Sizes: XS-XL | Colours: Black/Black, Lichen Blue/Black, Hushed Pink/Black | Materials: Body: 82% Polyester/18% Elastane (Mesh Panels: 87% Polyester/13% Elastane) | Length: 27in / 67cm (XS)

Energizing feel
Unrestricted movement
Reflective details
Inflexible waistband 
Limited storage

Under Armour typically brings lots of science into the design of their products, and these leggings are no exception. The claim – that the tights’ mineral-infused fabric absorbs energy from the body and then reflects it back to the muscles, increasing blood flow and improving performance – is bold. We took it for some tough workouts, and give it a high grade for performance. We can’t confirm that the material was solely responsible, but we can confidently say we felt stronger and more energized than usual during hard-hitting workouts. Endurance in particular felt enhanced. A few different swirls of fabric run from shin to upper thigh, and springiness and freedom of movement are notable at the knees especially. The UA RUSH Stamina Tights are slightly less compressive than other leggings tested, and have a longer inseam, which may mean wrinkling at knees and ankles for shorter runners. Storage is limited to a small, zipped pocket in back that stretches just enough for a (caseless) phone. The waistband is a bit unyielding, making it an effort to pull these over the hips, but once on, they were comfortable and stayed put. The reflective elements are generous and easily seen, for which we were grateful on evening and dawn runs.

Best leggings for running

(Image credit: Inov-8 Race Elite Tight)

Inov-8 Race Elite Tight

Like a lean, mean racing machine, these leggings feel fast and free

RRP: $95 (US) / £80 (UK) | Sizes: 6-16 (UK sizing) | Colours: Black | Materials: 62% polyamide, 38% elastane; calf panel: 89% polyamide, 11% spandex | Length: 26.5in/67cm (XS)

Zipped ankle for easy in/out
Flexible materials
Very lightweight
Reflective elements
Slim fit may mean you need to size up

Your plan may be to go for an easy jog, but once you put these on, you’ll want to do a speed workout. It just feels good to run fast in these lean, light, flexi tights from inov-8, a company whose heartbeat is running. Slim-fitting and compressive already, there is also piping and a waistband drawstring to ensure they stay in place on the run – no slipping, sliding or adjusting here. The fit is supportive and close, but allows for a full range of unrestricted, multidirectional movement. The waist is mid-rise, with a wide waistband that is stretchy and two-ply for added comfort. Zippers at the ankles make for easy on and off, and a windbreaker-like material at the back of the leg, did a nice job of deflecting the grime that runners kick up in muddy conditions and was easy cleaning, too.  A zipped pocket and open mesh pocket on the waistband hold essentials, although larger phones are unlikely to fit. Reflective elements were a welcome safety bonus, as was the 50+ UPF protection for long runs under the sun. Note, the slim fit means you may want to consider sizing up.

What to look for when choosing the best leggings for running

Today’s athleisure trend – sport and exercise gear worn as casual wear – means you might have a drawerful of leggings on hand for work and play. But they are definitely not all created equal. Running is a high-impact, high-energy, sweaty pursuit, and run-specific leggings are designed to support and enhance that activity. While they come in a wide variety of styles and colours to suit any fashion taste, there are key technical elements to focus on when shopping for the best leggings for running, which can make all the difference between a so-so outing and a great one.

Comfort and flex

The best leggings for running sit compressively close to your skin, supporting you as you run, so it’s important that they feel good and move with you. Materials that enhance flexibility will not only be the most comfortable, but also allow for unrestricted movement and help the leggings keep their form-fitting shape. Cotton may be comfy, but it’s a poor choice for leggings because it doesn’t stretch or breathe well (and its thermal properties are awful when it's wet). Nylon and elastane offer great stretch and are often blended with each other – or with other materials, such as polyester, wool, or bamboo – for a soft, flexible fit and feel.

Temperature management

Well-built running leggings should be more than just cozy, soft and stretchy, using materials chosen specifically for high energy and high impact. Leggings that incorporate sweat-wicking and breathable fabrics will go a long way toward helping you stay cool, dry and chafe-free during vigorous workouts; thermal fabrics help keep you toasty on bone-chilling winter outings.

Ventilation

Even on a cold day, your body can heat up quickly when you’re running. While fabrics are a key part of sweat and heat management, strategic ventilation also has a role to play in helping you stay cool and dry. Look for zippers at the ankle, or airy fabrics or mesh in humid areas such as behind the knees or at the crotch. Cropped leggings offer near-full coverage with a welcome bit of aeration at the hem – look for shorter inseams or a ¾ or 7/8 crop style.

Storage

Clutching anything in your sweaty palms while you run intervals or log miles is awkward at best, so if you plan to tote a few items along on your run, you’ll need somewhere to stash them.  Deep, stretchy side pockets are great for phones, while small, zippered pockets or a meshy, open slit in the waistband can work well for smaller essentials, such as a credit card, gel pack, or keys. A pocket should not only keep its contents safe, but also secure it from bouncing around as you run.

Visibility

Whether because sunlight hours are shortening with the season or because lengthy work days mean you only have time for pre-dawn or post-sunset runs, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself out running in the dark sometimes. Leggings with fluorescent colors and reflective hits in strategic spots can go a long way toward helping you stay visible to drivers and bike riders in dark or murky conditions.