As the senior style editor for a site that knew how cool activewear was way before Louis Vuitton sent its first pair of chunky sneakers down the runway, a major part of my job is scouting the best workout shoes, sports bras—and, of course, leggings for every body and every season. Summer-friendly lightweight options? Got you. Opaque tights that pass the squat test? Done and done. Trendy tropical-print pairs? Yep, those, too.
One of the biggest differences between assessing the value of ready to wear (i.e. any clothing bought off the rack, from a designer trench coat to the going out top you got at Zara) versus activewear is that looking at, feeling, and checking the fabric composition of the latter isn’t enough to tell how it will hold up during a HIIT class. You have to test it out…which I do—a lot.
I sweat in options across the spectrum of stretchy pants.
I train six days a week, twice a day, doing workouts that range in intensity from low to high—which means I drop a dozen pairs of leggings into my laundry basket every week. I sweat in options across the spectrum of stretchy pants—from French girl-approved pairs that cost $300 to the best-reviewed black leggings on Amazon for under $20. Yes, I put them through squat tests, but also teaser tests (it’s hard to attempt one of the hardest moves in Pilates when your core is being overly constricted in the wrong pair of compression tights), and sweat tests. Who wants to walk around with watermarks on their butt? No one, that’s who. Same goes with a saggy crotch.
While I try to treat my leggings like parents treat their children—love them all the same—the reality is life just doesn’t work that way. We all have favorites, and I know which ones are mine when I find myself reaching for them first from a fully stocked (and well-organized) leggings drawer. Now that July is almost over (how?!), it’s clear which pairs I relied most heavily on to get me through 86 percent-humidity days and heat waves. (Just me, or does summer feel like one never-ending hot yoga class?) Below are the three pairs I wore on repeat this month.
High-waisted leggings are here to stay, and the rise on these makes them the skyscrapers of performance tights. I’m 5’7″, and they hit me just above my belly button at the bottom of my ribcage. The benefit of this is that they’re ideally suited for pairing with a sports bra, whether or not it can double as a cropped top.
These were a personal winner for me this month, but I’m not the only one who apparently likes doing things in this particular pair. I saw three other women in my last Pilates reformer class (so, half the class) rocking the exact same style and color. Mine are charcoal, btw, but this tight comes in five different hues from oatmeal to ash. One of the best ways to camouflage sweat is by sticking with darker shades, so you should know that all my recs this month fall onto the shadow side of the color wheel.
Aside from coverage, part of the appeal with this pair is that the waistband doesn’t roll down when I fold over. And despite being made of the type of thicker, technical fabric that holds you in and sculpts your shape, I find that they do a good job of wicking sweat and keeping me dry, so I can wear them to a wider range of workouts, from dance cardio to weight lifting.
Who remembers “Coffee Talk,” the Saturday Night Live sketch with host Linda Richman (AKA Mike Myers) and special guests like Madonna? Here’s a refresher: Essentially, the two played New York housewives who sat on a couch gossiping and talking over one another—way before Bravo TV turned doing so into a reality television franchise.
One of the biggest compliments they could dole out was saying something was “like buttah.” As in “Linda, did you see Bette Midler at Radio City?” Answer: “Are you kidding? She was to die for; she was like buttah.” Well, that’s how I feel about these leggings. They’re so smooth that if this was 1999, Rob Thomas would be crooning about how comfy they were over a Carlos Santana guitar lick.
But I digress. The luxe quality of these leggings is due to them being made out of 90-percent Supplex, a super-soft, yet durable, 4-way stretch performance fabric that feels like you’re wearing the most hygge-friendly pair of pajamas to your spin class (without suffocating your legs in a pool of their own sweat). Beyond Yoga collaborated with inclusivity advocates All Woman Project to create this pair, which is available in sizes XS to 3X. It’s the activewear company’s first collab with extended sizes, and 10-percent of each pair bought goes to supporting AWP’s inclusivity initiatives.
Alala Harley Tight, $115
My black leather jacket is basically my security blanket, so the day every year I have to hang it up because it’s too hot is always a sad one. It might explain why I’ve gravitated toward Alala’s Harley Tight lately. The combo of shine jersey fabric, ribbed detailing, and precision paneling at the knees and hips give this pair a bit of a motocross vibe.
They’re almost 80-percent polyester, which makes them featherweight and fast drying—two things you want in a pair of leggings this time of year. Denise Lee, Alala’s founder, has also added chafe-free seaming (another summer-friendly hack for avoiding chub rub).
One perk of exercising in summer is being able to do so outdoors. Here are the best waterfall hikes in every state if you want to infuse your fitness routine with some fresh air.
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