Long gone are the days where you just pulled out any pair of tracksuit bottoms and an old T-shirt to head to the gym. Fashionable and functional gym kit is now serious business and fitness fanatics like to feel supported, confident and stylish during their workout. And while some may still find it baffling that people pay so much for gym leggings that end up drenched in sweat, studies have shown that wearing new gym kit can enhance your performance. Dr Jonathan Fader, a sports psychologist, says that when we put on new fitness gear we begin to get into character, similar to an actor putting on a costume; an effect that can result in improved motivation, focus and gains. 

If you want to up your gym game, take a look at IndyBest’s selection of the top gym leggings on the market at the moment. We tested a range of options, evaluating their design, how they held up during intense workouts, how comfortable they were and how well they washed, an important factor if purchasing some of the more expensive options. And while the best performing leggings tended to be on the pricier side, there are also some great, cheaper options for those wanting to get back into exercise or who would prefer to spend their money elsewhere.

You can trust our idependent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent. 

Victoria’s Secret Knockout Leggings: £68.43, Victoria’s Secret

These gym leggings from super-sexy underwear brand Victoria’s Secret are a great option for those who want to invest a little more in their workout gear, but don’t want to break the bank. At nearly £70, these are still a fair amount of money to part with, but there is no question as to the quality of these leggings. Easy to slip on, the material is lightweight and feels soft and smooth on the skin; you almost forget you are wearing these leggings, making your performance faster and more agile.

The material is durable, washing extremely well yet also resisting sweat or moisture absorption, keeping them cool during your workout and quick to dry after washing. The fit is tight, sculpting your legs with flattering seams, and if you need extra support, there is a toggle to tighten around your waist, ensuring there is no sagging during cycling, running or sport.

Our favourite feature of these stylish leggings is the sleek pocket on your thigh, which does not disrupt the line of the leggings, but means you can keep your phone or keys with you on the go. These leggings are a staple for any active gym-goer, as they balance well between style and performance. Coming in a huge range of colours and patterns as well as in short, medium and long lengths, these leggings had to be our Best Buy.

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Sweaty Betty Power ⅞ Leggings in Union Jack Print: £90, Sweaty Betty

At £90, these eye-catching leggings from Sweaty Betty are the second most expensive we tried, and should definitely be viewed as an investment piece. This fun, patriotic design was released to celebrate Sweaty Betty’s 20th birthday, and the brand has also updated these iconic leggings to showcase its latest technology. The new bum-sculpting and sweat-wicking material results in a very flattering fit and leggings that stay dry and cool throughout your workout.

They also dry incredibly fast, which is great if you have multiple workouts over one week. These were some of the trickiest to get on due to the figure-hugging nature, but once on, they do not budge at all during intense exercise.

While they are great all-rounder leggings, they perform best during high-intensity interval training (Hiit), boxing and barre workouts due to their flexibility and support. They also have a handy zip pocket which fits an iPhone 7.

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Fabletics Salar Mesh Powerhold Leggings in Stratus Print: £77, Fabletics

With a variety of fun and stylish designs, Fabletics is a great brand to bring some colour to your workout. These cool-toned marble effect leggings are incredibly flattering, smoothing and sculpting while also being exceptionally comfortable, feeling almost weightless on the skin.

Unlike others we tried, there was no toggle to tighten the elasticity, however due to the maximum compression fit and Powerhold material technology, these leggings offer a four-way stretch, so they are giving enough to allow movement, but tight enough to keep you supported throughout exercise.

The mesh detailing, while also adding to the design, allows breathability during even the sweatiest of runs or workouts, yet you do not need to worry about any unusual tan lines, as these leggings offer a UPF 50+ sun protection, keeping you safe when working out in the summer sun.

You can buy these leggings straight off for £77, or you can save when becoming a VIP member of the Fabletics community, whereby you pay a monthly fee to have suggestions sent to you based on your workout and design preferences and can access perks such as workout classes and discounts to wellness retreats. However, you are still charged once a month if you do not go on the website to skip that month’s offerings, so make sure you keep alert if you opt for the membership.

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Lululemon Chasing Miles Tight leggings in Memoir Print: £118, Lulu Lemon

At £118, these leggings from Lululemon were the most expensive leggings we tested by a long way and are definitely an option for those who take their workout kit seriously. While expensive, these leggings performed really well during our workout. They were tight, but not in an uncomfortable way, feeling like a second skin. They were supportive, too, with no post-squat legging pull-ups required.

Made from Nulux, an exceptionally breathable and flexible fabric, these were easier to pull on than the Sweaty Betty leggings and felt snug and soft. While they are available in block colours that can compliment any other workout gear, we loved the floral, feminine, almost Oriental style Memoir Print, which was the most beautiful of all the patterns we tested, and the best option for those that want to stand out in the gym for all the right reasons.

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TU Women’s Streak Active Print Leggings: £16, TU Clothing

Very much at the cheaper end of our scale, these bright and bold gym leggings from Sainsbury’s TU clothing line are perfect for those wanting a cheap and cheerful addition to their gym wardrobe, or are just getting into working out.

These leggings, with their striking, multi-coloured design, look great and are super comfortable. They are not as tight-fitting as some of the more expensive options, they may sag slightly after an intense workout, however, they are flexible enough to allow movement for lunges and stretches with ease and also have a little zip pocket at the back for any valuables.

The material, understandably, does not feel as luxurious as some of the others we tried and they may not wash as well over time, however at less than £20, these really are a bargain and a brilliant option for those not wanting to splurge.

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Tribe Engineered Run Tight in Burgundy: £69, Tribe

If you like working out during the cold winter months, or enjoy running as part of your exercise routine, these burgundy leggings from Tribe are a must for your gym kit repertoire. Created from a more cotton-like, thicker material than the others we tried, these leggings keep you warm if jogging in the park, but also offer breathability during sweat-inducing workouts.

The material, sourced from Italian suppliers, has amazing antibacterial and anti-odour properties keeping your leggings hygienic and feeling fresh. We loved the deep burgundy colour, with bright, zesty orange detailing that is also reflective, keeping you safe if working out after-hours.

The seamless design of these leggings results in a smooth, sleek silhouette and the internal drawcord means they keep snug and fitted around your waist. However, these leggings did come up quite roomy, so it is probably wise to order a little smaller than usual to make sure they have a good, tight fit and don’t become loose during the third round of burpees.

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Adidas Wanderlust High Rise Printed Yoga Tights: £59.95, Adidas

While specifically designed for yoga, these leggings from Adidas are another solid pair of all-rounders, offering design, performance and a cheaper price tag than some of the other well-known brands. They are a brilliant option for those who are eco-conscious because they are made from recycled polyester, so you know that you are helping the environment while looking stylish in the geometric pattern.

Bulkier than some of the other options, these leggings still sit close to skin and offer overall compression support while being deceptively breathable. With a high elastic waist, you feel snug, allowing you to concentrate on your workout and not having to pull up your leggings. These washed well, but they do specify not to use fabric conditioner, so make sure you read the instructions carefully to ensure these leggings stay effective for as long as possible.

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Under Armour UA Vanish Printed Leggings in Black: £65, Under Armour

These pixel-style leggings from Under Amour were the best at keeping us cool during the hottest of spin classes, due to the super sweat-wicking properties of Under Armour’s Microthread fabric. Comfortable and flexible, these leggings were flattering on the legs and bum, yet weren’t tricky to get on. The clever placement of the seams on these leggings enhanced the sleek design, but also eliminates any tight pressure points or chafing (eliminating the chance of those pesky red marks on your legs after a run).

The diamond-shaped design slims your thighs and the multicoloured, pixelated pattern adds a touch of personality and fun, without being too bold or garish. The back pocket is an envelope style, rather than zip, which felt as if it would be more unsafe, but kept an Oyster card protected and secure throughout the workout. 

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Primark Tropical Print Leggings: £8, Primark

If you are someone who likes to keep up with current trends, opting for cheaper gym leggings may be best for you, as you can change them up each season. These fun, tropical print leggings from Primark will bring a burst of exoticness to your workouts and the palm print is very current.

These won’t blow you away with their performance like the offerings from Lululemon or Sweaty Betty, however for as much as a Pret lunch, these leggings do a fantastic job. The form-fitting design and sleek material ensures you do not feel weighed down while you exercise. These did not wash as well as others, however at £8, you feel you get your money’s worth after a few months’ wear anyway. The print is bold enough to cause some serious legging envy, but it isn’t so bright it won’t go with your staple gym bras and vests.

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Nike Power Training Crop Leggings: £54.95, Nike

Sometimes simpler is better, and when Nike has years of experience creating performance-enhancing gym gear, you can trust that these simple cropped black leggings will work wonders in the gym. A slim, flattering fit, finished with the iconic Nike tick, these leggings are created using the DriFit technology, which left our skin dry and cool after a heavy Hiit session.

These leggings were comfortable and supportive during a run, a workout and a yoga class, so are a great option for those who like to mix up their training from session to session. While some cropped leggings can become ruched on the calves, the second-skin fit means all lines are smooth. Similar to the Adidas offering, these are a good mid-range buy for those who take their exercise seriously, but are looking for a more affordable option. 

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The verdict: women’s gym leggings

Sitting in the higher range, but still not astronomically expensive, the Victoria Secret Knockout leggings are a brilliant, high-quality option, which will perform well across a range of exercises and disciplines. Their beautiful, sleek design married with their super cooling and drying properties made them our Best Buy.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.