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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.