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The best leggings of 2021 - CNN Underscored

February 18, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 25.8%. 5 min read.

We tested the best leggings for women, from Lululemon to Athleta to Girlfriend Collective, and found four high-waisted options to be the best for working out and everyday wear.

So we rounded up 10 staffers who wear a range of sizes (and who all have some pretty strong opinions on leggings) to test over a dozen pairs in a quest to find the very best of the best, both for everyday wear and for working out, in terms of quality, comfort, style and more.

Serious yogis and fitness buffs seeking a legging that will let them focus on their movements and perhaps make them forget they’re wearing any leggings at all won’t be let down by the Lululemon Align Pant, long considered a cult-favorite style — and, as we found, for good reason.

A more wallet-friendly option to the other winners on our list, Colorful Koala Women’s High Waisted Yoga Pants are soft, comfortable leggings — with substantial pockets to boot — that we found as much a pleasure to wear during workouts as we did lounging around the house.

The breathable leggings are made from Powervita fabric, a blend of nylon/Lycra spandex that the brand describes as having “interlocking construction to provide light compression that delivers just-right support. ” Based on our testing, we can indeed confirm this to be accurate: After both working out in these and wearing them for everyday activities — including a whole lot of lounging around the house — we found the leggings were equal parts comfortable, sweat-wicking and flattering.

We realize that a near-$100 price point may cause some sticker shock, but you get, as they say, what you pay for: In this case, high-quality, versatile leggings with all the features and comfort you’d expect in an ideal pair for both everyday and high-impact activities.

As one of our testers put it, “This is my first pair of upscale leggings and it’s a world of difference. ” If you’re looking for comfortable, durable, stylish leggings that you can seamlessly take from an outdoor run to a meal with friends, we can’t think of a better pair than this one.

Touching the fabric of the Align, to the Lululemon newbies in the room, is a sensation like none other, giving new meaning to the phrase “buttery soft. ” (One of our testers may or may not have audibly oohed and aahed the first time she put them on. ) The leggings scored perfect marks for everyday comfort and stretch and nearly perfect marks for comfort during high-impact activities; we soon came to understand what people mean when they say they truly forget they’re wearing any leggings at all with these on.

They’re designed like your standard pair of everyday leggings — seams on either side, gusset for additional support, wide waistband — with only a small, penny-sized circular logo near the hip.

While these Colorful Koala leggings come only in an approximately 25-inch inseam, the brand also offers a full-length legging with a 28-inch inseam that trades side pockets for a hidden waistband pockets; though it also has tens of thousand of five-star reviews, we didn’t test this pair four ourselves, though, so can’t vouch for its quality.

We researched the top leggings on the market as well as considered staff-recommended pairs that our editors have worn for years — for both working out and everyday wear, across a range of prices — and settled on a pool of 13 to put to the test.

We wore each legging several times, both before and after washing it, during high-impact, sweaty workouts as well as for lounging around the house and low-impact everyday activities to determine how comfortable each pair was overall.

We washed each pair at least four times, noting if running them through typical wash and dry cycles resulted in any noticeable pilling, fading or change in softness; we also observed whether the leggings attracted lint and pet hair, and used additional anecdotal evidence about durability from staffers with any long-term experience with leggings we tested.

If, however, you’re looking for leggings that feel a bit more like shapewear and give you that “held in” feeling — and/or you want a good pair for running outdoors when the weather isn’t sweltering — these are a great option that have proven excellent at standing up to years of wear.

A few other things we loved about these leggings: They’re available in perhaps the widest range of sizes of all the pairs we tested, from XXS–6XL (for context, they accommodate waists from 22. 5 to 52 inches and hips from 32 to 62. 5 inches), and their three inseams also span a wide range (19. 5, 23. 75 and 28. 5 inches), so finding the ideal length no matter your height is in the bag.

If you’re looking for a pair of everyday leggings that you can feel good about wearing, though, we think these are a solid pair — and we appreciate the brand’s commitment to inclusive sizing and eco-friendly manufacturing.

(They also feature a tiny hidden waistband pocket, like the Align. ) While most of us found them to be as comfortable for intense workouts as for lounging around the house, nearly forgetting we were wearing any leggings at all, one tester did have some issues with the waistband, which tended to roll down consistently during runs.

We also appreciated that these leggings are available in sizes XXS through XXL, a wider range than most of the budget-priced pairs we tested.

And like with the Colorful Koala leggings, if you’re on the taller side, you might find the cropped length a tad too short, namely for outdoor wear in colder weather, but they are also available in a 28-inch inseam (again, though, we didn’t test the full-length option ourselves).

While the leggings scored high marks in the opaque and stretchiness categories, and they’re soft both inside and out, they’re not optimal for working out, as the material is a bit too thick for for ideal comfort during a sweat sesh, and they didn’t seem to be very sweat-wicking either (not a surprise given their low price point).

The full-length leggings are not only available in sizes XS–XXL, but they also come in three inseams, 26. 5, 28 and 31 inches, the latter of which — bonus for the taller folks in the room — is among the longest inseams offered out of all the pairs we tested.

While they are crafted with a moisture-wicking poly-spandex blend, they didn’t ultimately snag a winning spot, as we found the Colorful Koala pair to have a more flattering fit (one of our testers noted the Old Navy leggings pooled at the ankles a bit), with the addition of pockets and a material that wasn’t a magnet for lint and pet hair, as these tended to be.

There wasn’t much not to like about this pair of leggings — in fact, it scored top marks pretty much across the board, with particularly high scores for both comfort and stylishness.

Among all the leggings we tested, this Outdoor Voices pair held up perhaps the best of them all — after our tests, they proved to be super-durable after many workouts and washes, appearing like new, with no pilling, fading or lint to speak of.

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