The 9 Pairs of Leggings We Think Are Really, Truly, the Greatest of All Time

Many of the tops and tees in your activewear wardrobe are probably replaceable—you buy something new, wear it for a couple of years, and eventually it winds up in your donation pile. It was fine and it did the job, but it’s unlikely that you’d buy it again.

Now leggings—oh, boy, leggings: These are the pieces we form deep, lasting attachments to. Maybe you have several of the same style (you wear and love them that much) or you refuse to let go of one pair from years ago, literally hanging on by a thread, that your favorite brand no longer makes. You wear leggings to work out, you wear leggings to run errands, you wear leggings to watch a movie or tidy up around the house. (Let’s just say it: You wear them for…everything.) And while you have your few go-tos, it’s hard to find something new that’s just as good, another Perfect Pair.

We get it—and that’s why we’re going back to basics for the 2024 SELF Activewear Awards: With a more selective process and smaller winner list than ever before, we’re awarding just 17 items this year to help you find the cream of the crop. Below, check out the nine pairs of leggings we’re officially deeming today’s greatest.

Jump to the winners.

How We Picked the Best Leggings

For this year’s Activewear Awards, we asked SELF editors and a group of handpicked expert judges (read more about them below!) to nominate their favorite leggings of all time. The only rule? The piece must still be available for purchase.

Simultaneously, we revisited the splashiest new releases from the past year. We combed through these, alongside the editor and expert judge submissions, keeping an eye out for pieces that were nominated more than once. We also did some additional research: Is the product well-reviewed online? Is it available in a wide range of sizes? Does it suit multiple body types? Is it a reasonable price?

Then we set out to find our first-ever Reader’s Choice Award winners. We sent a survey to SELF readers and followers, asking them to nominate their picks, and we dug through thousands of responses. The most-nominated leggings are the Reader’s Choice Award winner you’ll see below.

There are a few technical factors that make a pair of leggings great. We asked our editors, judges, and readers to consider the following when nominating their picks:

Waistband Fit and Comfort

  • Low-rise leggings tend to be impractical during a workout (they may move or slide down)—do these leggings have a higher-waisted fit? Do they sit at a spot on your waist that’s comfortable and non-restrictive?
  • Does the waistband roll down? (It shouldn’t!)

Fabric Quality and Moisture Management

  • Do they pass the squat test? Here’s how to find out: Put on the leggings, bend into a deep squat, and note whether the material around your glutes remains opaque.
  • Does the material (or colorway) show sweat? Do they feel heavy and wet when you sweat in them, or do they dry quickly and remain unobstructive to your workout?


  • Leggings come in a variety of lengths (e.g. cropped, 7/8, ankle/full-length), and the length you prefer will likely come down to your height and what feels best for your go-to types of activity.

Added Features

  • For some people, pockets on a pair of leggings is nonnegotiable—they might mitigate the need for a waistpack or arm belt on a run.
  • Other added features might include reflective details, a built-in drawstring at the waist, or a fabric that helps you feel more comfortable doing a specific activity (like extra stretchy leggings for yoga, or heat-tech leggings for winter sports).

How You Feel

  • Above all, a great pair of leggings should make you feel confident and ready to move. They should be no-fuss and comfortable enough that you don’t have to think about them throughout the day or during your workout, but flattering and stylish enough that you enjoy what they bring to your outfit.

The Best Leggings for Pretty Much Anything: Athleta Salutation Stash Tight

Why we love them: Thick and cozy enough for winter walks but still soft, sleek, and flexible for sweaty gym workouts, the Athleta Salutation Stash Tight is a long-standing go-to for many of our judges. The wide waistband never rolls down, the pockets are graciously deep (but pretty much undetectable—they add zero bulk to the feel of the legging), and they’ll last years in your closet, even in heavy rotation.

One judge said: “These are my everything leggings! I have been buying the Stash from Athleta for years, and they hold up. I teach barre, lift weights, hike trails, and browse the aisles of Trader Joe’s in them constantly.”

Available in sizes XXS–3X.

The Best Leggings for Gym Workouts: Superfit Hero Pocket Ankle Leggings

Why we love them: These leggings won SELF Activewear Awards in 2022, 2023, and now 2024. Could we send a stronger message? The Pocket Ankle leggings are thick and ultra-compressive with a no-budge high waistband, and judges say they’re great to wear for everything from weight lifting to yoga.

One judge said: “I love Superfit Hero because of their mission to be size inclusive. There’s a lack of that in workout wear, and it makes it difficult for folks in all bodies to show up when they don’t have what they need. These leggings are sturdy, not see-through, have a pocket, and come in a variety of size options.”

Available in sizes L–7X.

The Softest Leggings: Beyond Yoga Spacedye Out Of Pocket High Waisted Midi Legging

Why we love them: Don’t be fooled by their pajama-level comfort: Beyond Yoga’s hallmark Spacedye leggings are well-suited for a range of activities, though comfy enough to keep on long after you’re done. Notably, they don’t sacrifice shape and form for stretch. A few judges pointed out that, unlike other supersoft leggings, these still give a smooth look to your lower half.

One judge said: “I reach for these all the time because they’re SO comfy to wear, and they work for most activities I do. I appreciate the size range—not only do they go up to 4X, but they’re true plus sizes and don’t run small. They’re always coming out with new colors in seasonal collections, and no matter how much I wash and dry these, they hold up well!”

Honorable mention: Our judges also love the maternity version of these leggings—they’re not available in the same size range, but they’re a great buy for folks who are expecting.

Available in sizes XXS–4X.

The Best Leggings for Running: Lululemon Fast and Free High-Rise Tight

Why we love them: Light and breezy, Lululemon’s Fast and Free tight feels like a second skin. Reflective details down the leg give them a sporty look (and are genuinely helpful—safety is important!) and a nylon-meets-Lycra sweat-wicking fabric will keep you feeling dry for miles…and miles…and miles.

One judge said: “I love these for runs—especially long ones. The pocket situation is great on these—two large drop-in side pockets and five (!) on the waistband. The material is also amazing—it feels so smooth and cooling.”

Available in sizes 0–20.

The Best Luxe Leggings: Vuori Evolve Legging

Why we love them: Yes, the Vuori Evolve leggings clock in at a total of $118 per pair, but we think they’re worth it. For one, they feel expensive: The fabric quality is unmatched (breathable, comfortable to sweat in, soft, stretchy, and sleek) and the fit is, well, perfect. The waistband is compressive but still just as thin and flexible as the rest of the pant; these leggings stay put, move however your body wants to move, and make you look like a million bucks.

One judge said: “These are probably the most compressive leggings I own. They have the perfect high-raise waist for me (my belly button is covered but there’s still some space between the waistband and bottom of my sports bra). Beyond that, the most remarkable feature about them is actually their lack of features—they are so streamlined, smooth, and supportive. They truly stand out for their simplicity.”

Available in sizes XXS–XXL.

The Best Leggings for Yoga: Lululemon Align High-Rise Pant

Why we love them: Lululemon started as a yoga brand, and while it’s since expanded to include many kinds of activities, the enduring impact of the Align leggings prove those roots remain strong. That said, we’d be remiss not to mention that each judge who nominated these pointed out their versatility—so while they’re the perfect yoga pants, they’re good for just about everything else too. They come in four different lengths (23, 25, 28, and 31 inches) and a bunch of classic colors.

Our judges said: “I love these for just about everything, whether I’m throwing them on with a sweater or sweatshirt to run to the park with my kids, going on a long walk with my newborn, doing a yoga class at home, or simply laying on the couch watching a movie. They are my holy grail, have-in-every-color type of product. Plus they’re super stretchy, so I was able to wear them up until midway through my third trimester and immediately after giving birth.”

“I have always HATED tight clothing—including leggings—which is why I wear sweats most of the time. However, the Lululemon Aligns are the exception. I recently started training for the 2025 NYC Marathon, and these are my go-to over any other joggers or running tights I’ve purchased. It truly doesn’t feel like you’re wearing pants, and they never cause chafing. I’ve run 5Ks in these, I’ve done hot yoga in these, and I’ve worn these out to lunch with a cute sweater—they are super versatile.”

Available in sizes 0–20.

The Best Leggings for Low-Impact Workouts: Universal Standard Next-to-Naked Cropped Legging

Why we love them: The Next-to-Naked leggings won a SELF Activewear Award last year too. Perfect for Pilates, barre, walking, and yoga, they’re lightweight, stretchy, and come in a version with pockets, if that’s your thing.

One judge said: “They fit really well on my 3X body. It feels like Universal Standard fit tests on actual plus size people, rather than just scaling up the pattern. The fabric and construction feel high quality and hold up well through years of washing and drying.”

Available in sizes 4XS–4XL.

Reader’s Choice Award: Old Navy High-Waisted PowerSoft Leggings

Why readers love them: You can’t beat the price on these—sure. But you also can’t beat the quality…. Especially at this price. The PowerSoft leggings are lightly compressive and suitable for any workout—even long, hard runs.

SELF readers said: “POCKETS. THEY HAVE POCKETS! They’re comfortable AF, slimming, and they actually stay up during runs! And they’re a fraction of the price of other brands too. I literally have 25 pairs, and they’re the only bottoms I’ll do races in. The side pockets are so great, I don’t even need to wear running belts during my training runs to keep my phone, gum, and keys handy.”

“These are particularly good if you sweat. I wear them for my long runs on the treadmill and they don’t show sweat stains, they have comfortable compression, hold up through lots of washes, come in a variety of colors, and they’re super affordable.”

Available in sizes XS–4X.

Reader’s Choice Award: Fabletics Define PowerHold High-Waisted 7/8 Legging

Why readers love them: The PowerHold leggings are designed to be smoothing, body-hugging, and secure—and the consensus seems to be that they really, truly are. They’re super compressive and excellent for HIIT or strength workouts where you’ll be doing quick and sharp movements.

SELF readers said: “These are the best leggings I’ve ever tried—I have over 25 pairs. I wear them everywhere. They are very affordable and super flattering.”

“These are the only leggings I wear. I wear them to work out, relax, run errands—everything. They’re flattering primarily because the compression is unmatched—you feel locked in, with everything staying in place, but not to the point of discomfort. I’ve tried leggings that make similar claims but they have never come close when it comes to how they actually feel. I have been wearing these for years and have them in all different colors and patterns.”

Available in sizes XXS–4X.


Photography: Ryan Segedi 
Wardrobe styling: Kat Thomas
Hair: Chika Nishiyama
Makeup: Monica Alvarez 

Editor in Chief: Rachel Wilkerson Miller 
Associate Director, Special Projects: Hannah Pasternak 
Creative Director: Amber Venerable 
Producer: Melissa Kramer 

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