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We tested a dozen pairs of new leggings. These are our favorites for exercise, work, lounging, and more

We’ve seen our share of yoga pant hits and misses this year. Here are our picks of the best.

We tested a dozen pairs of new leggings. These are our favorites for exercise, work, lounging, and more
[Photo: courtesy Alo]
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We’ve all got them. Maybe you have two. (Or, if you’re lucky, three or four.) But for those who love their yoga pants, these stretchy standbys have become indispensable quarantine workhorses. A staple in our 24/7 wardrobe. The spandex bottom half to our business casual Zoom-iform.

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But there’s a formula for leggings bliss: Are they squat-proof? Do they hold up well in the wash? Do they sag and stretch out after a few hours of wear? Are they soft??

Then, there are personal preferences: light, heavy, or no compression? Ankle length or need a few extra inches? Wide, smoothing waistbands or seamless and elastic-less? Texture? Ribbing? Flared legs?

And most important: Are they comfortable?

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Like the rest of the work-from-home masses, we’ve seen our share of yoga pant hits and misses this year. Here are our picks from the current market—whether you’re working out, lounging, or sitting behind your desk for hours at a time. These are the yoga pants and leggings we recommend.

[Photo: courtesy Beyond Yoga]
Beyond Yoga Patch Pocket High Waisted Midi Leggings

Beyond Yoga’s incredibly cute workout sets seem like they would be right at home in an airy, expensive, Beverly Hills yoga studio. But don’t let the aesthetic fool you: These pieces don’t feel at all fussy once you have them on. The Patch Pocket High Waisted Midi Leggings  are among the most comfortable pairs of pants I’ve ever put on. The fabric is velvety soft, and while the high waist makes me feel covered up, the stretch is so gentle that I truly barely even notice I have them on. That comfort can be a plus or a minus; these pants wouldn’t be my first choice for a run, high-intensity interval training, or any other kind of jiggle-inducing exercise. But for gentle stretching, slow-paced yoga, or, let’s be honest, just lying around the house all day, their comfort is unmatched. (And if you’re looking for a more traditionally supportive fit, the adorable Tossed Star leggings in Sportflex fabric have a more structured, synthetic feel.) —Lara Sorokanich, staff editor

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[Photo: courtesy Boden]
Boden Jessica Active Leggings

If Beyond Yoga’s leggings embody the free-spirited L.A. yogi ethos, U.K.-based Boden’s are the embodiment of proper, put-together London. The Jessica Active Leggings are made of thick, sturdy, compression fabric that makes everything feel tucked in, from waist to ankle. I tried them out in the Pressed Bloom pattern, and was pleasantly surprised by how flattering they were, even in such a bold print. I’d recommend buying a size larger than you think you need in these, as even after consulting the size chart I found myself doing the “jump up and down as you yank them up” dance to get these on. But once they were on, they were incredibly slimming, flattering, and fun—comfortable enough to wear while working from home all day and then take on an after-work run. Once the weather gets better and society opens up again, I could definitely see myself wearing these to run errands, hang out in a park, or enjoy a casual hangout with friends. —L.S.

Lululemon Align Crop 21″ Cool

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I’m a short human, so any legging advertised as “cropped” is actually “about the right length” for me. The Lululemon 28″ Super High-Rise Align is my ride or die—my go-to for any workout, travel (when that was still a thing), and lounging around my house. So when I found out the brand had a new fabric tech—a temperature-controlling version of my fave Nulu fabric—with a cropped inseam, I had to try them. The “Cool” fabric, which debuted last year, is created with additional yarns that are supposed to feel literally cooler to the touch than those in your traditional Align. The result is a legging so stretchy it feels sinful, still roll-proof, and yet barely noticeable when worn for a full flow. I’m not sure if it really feels “cooler” than my regular Aligns, but I like to tell myself I’m cooler for wearing it. (Haha.) To be fair, I spend a lot more time in a state of stagnancy than I do working up a sweat, so a more dedicated athlete than I may benefit more from the new fabrication. Regardless, I’ve worked these into my full rotation of daytime leggings, and for me and my strenuous six-hour Midsomer Murders marathons, they’re absolutely perfect. —Rachel Raczka, writer

[Photo: courtesy Alo]
Alo Yoga Airbrush and AloSoft Leggings

I’ve been a fan of the cult brand Alo Yoga ever since my ultraflexible sister gave me a gift subscription to the company’s Alo Moves streaming service for Christmas a few years back. (The service includes thousands of hours of classes from top instructors, from Pilates and HIIT workouts to meditation and, yes, yoga.) I’ve also spent the pandemic encouraging friends and colleagues to just buy the company’s perfect Urban Moto Sweatpant already. But surprisingly, I’d never given Alo’s renowned yoga leggings a try—until recently. Looking for styles that would be equally appropriate for my WFH days (i.e., not too constricting) and my evening yoga and Pilates workouts, I landed on the incredibly soft, brushed-cotton High-Waist Alosoft leggings and the slightly more structured (though not quite as cozy) High-Waist Airbrush version. Both leggings have a flatteringly thick waistband and, according to the company, “contouring” seams in the back for an “extra-lifted look.”

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The Alosoft leggings may well be the most comfortable thing I own—so buttery soft and delicious that they’re basically ASMR apparel. It’s impossible to feel stress while wearing these leggings. That said, they don’t deliver quite enough compression to be my go-to for all occasions. On that front, the High-Waist Airbrush leggings are incredibly versatile: cottony soft and flexible, but still thick and supportive enough to wear just about anywhere. I’ve also washed them more than a half dozen times, and their shape and elasticity have held up. It’s not easy to find a pair of soft leggings that will stand the test of time. The Airbrush is one of them. —Amy Farley, senior editor

[Photo: courtesy Everlane]
Everlane Perform Pocket Legging

I started the pandemic by panic-buying the recycled nylon Everlane Perform Legging in an easy ink-gray shade. Since then, I’ve logged hundreds of hours in them: at my desk, working out, at the park, on hikes, and even camping trips. I’ve washed them dozens of times, spilled on them, run my jagged nails across them—and they still look brand-new. (This performance fabric really performs.) My only complaint is the lack of pockets, which means I end up tucking my phone into the waistband as I move around the house. So I was thrilled when Everlane recently introduced a similar style—this time with pockets. The new Perform Pocket Leggings are made of the same easygoing nylon fabric, which keeps you feeling put together without giving off a scuba-suit vibe. They include some additional seams, which appear a little superfluous, but are supposed to be “leg-lengthening.” If they mean that Everlane was able to build in pockets, I’m all for them. —A.F.

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[Photo: courtesy Madewell]
Madewell MWL Form High-Rise 7/8 Leggings

Before the pandemic, I wore leggings only on the weekend. Now that I’ve been working from home, they’ve become part of my Monday-to-Friday wardrobe as well. So I’ve been on the lookout for new styles and colors to upgrade my collection of black cotton spandex pants. Madewell’s MWL (Make Weekends Longer) leggings are a stylish alternative to my current look. The indigo is an instant mood lifter on these cold winter days. The recycled nylon fabric is breathable and feels cool against the skin. You get a smooth fit with mild compression, which makes them well suited for leggings you want to wear all day. And with the high waist I didn’t worry about the top creeping down or curling over. I would probably go a size larger than my usual pant size, though, for a little more give. I felt athletic with them on but the most active I got was taking the stairs to my apartment building’s laundry room, when the hidden pocket in the waistband proved the perfect size to hold my laundry card. Paired with sneakers and an oversize sweater, these leggings are the perfect casual look for every day. —Charissa Jones, copy chief

[Photo: courtesy Vuori]

Vuori Daily Legging

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My immediate reaction upon opening the package from Vuori was, “Oh shit, these are going to be too small.” But, much to my relief, they stretched to my ample adult size when I slipped them on. And, what a joy to do. The fabric is unexpectedly soft and luxurious for a pair of leggings. I have been wearing them all day, occasionally petting my legs to feel the fabric. I really like the high waistline and the drawstring, which makes them feel secure. I found these leggings to be flattering even though I’ve gained weight during the pandemic. I like that the black camo pattern is super subtle. —Celine Grouard, photo editor

[Photo: courtesy Sweaty Betty]

Sweaty Betty Power Workout Leggings 

Sweaty Betty is not a brand name I am attracted to—maybe Betty is too close to Becky and being called a Becky is bad enough without being sweaty (say that five times fast). But my husband, who also thinks that “You’ve Got Nail” is a great nail salon name, thinks the name is clever. To each their own. . . . These leggings are made from a four-way stretch fabric and have bum-sculpting seams. I love that there are two pockets! The back pocket has a zipper and feels secure enough to carry keys or money when out and about. The side pocket is perfect for a cellphone (I carried my iPhone X max in it comfortably enough to “misplace it,” aka forget it was there). And the drawstring is continuous, so I’ll never have to go fishing for it. The pattern is fun. I felt a little more sporty in these, though not enough to actually motivate me to work out. —C.G.

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[Photo: courtesy Spanx]

Spanx Every.Wear Active Icon Leggings

So long to the days of oversize men’s tees and old college sweats at the gym. The recent uptick in Photoshop-perfect Instagram fit-fluencers means going to the gym requires looking your best. Enter Spanx’s Every.Wear Active Icon Leggings, which are wildly lightweight, waistband-less (I’ll get to that later), and have an exceptionally discrete tummy-toning panel.

I was actually pleasantly surprised by the ability of these leggings to flatten my soft spots while remaining comfortable. The process of dressing and undressing, however, is anything but simple. Getting these on is comparable to pulling on a wet suit: easy-ish while dry, but when they’re sweaty? Well, that’s a whole different story. The leggings manage to maintain their dry look even when soaked, which makes them the perfect counterpart to a high-intensity workout, or, you know, any sweaty activity where you don’t want to look like you’ve peed your pants. The toning panel in the front is slightly rubberized, and, even when wet, never slides or rolls down. And while we’re talking about the waistband, or lack thereof, it’d be hard not to mention how flattering not having a horizontal seam wrapping your most vulnerable area can be.

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All in all, I give these leggings a solid thumbs up. But as I’m sure many people have undoubtedly said before me, there’s nothing quite like walking through your front door and ripping off your Spanx after a long day. —Chelsea Schiff, art director

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