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I Tested 5 Popular Workout Leggings & There's One Clear Winner

This one pair of buttery soft workout leggings outranks them all and checks every box.
The product recommendations in this post are recommendations by the writer and/or expert(s) interviewed and do not contain affiliate links. Meaning: If you use these links to buy something, we will not earn a commission.

When working out, every detail can impact your performance. You need the best routine, proper equipment, and a nutritious eating regimen. It's also crucial to set yourself up with the right workout apparel. Your garments should fit like a glove from your head all the way down to your toes. For me, the fabric should breathe, moisture must be absorbed efficiently, and performance gear should hold up well in the laundry and at the gym. But alas, not all fitness attire is created equal, which is why I tested five popular workout legging brands over the course of four months—September through December—and discovered one brand that is total performance perfection.

Read on to learn all about my testing phase and new favorite brand of leggings.

Here's how I tested five workout legging brands:

workout leggings design
Photos: Abercrombie, Vuori, Athleta; Design: Alexa Mellardo

I embarked on this evaluation to find the ideal pair of workout leggings that best suits my active lifestyle; a pair that's durable, flexible, and incredibly comfortable. Plus, I want to like the way I look and feel confident in what I'm wearing on a daily basis.

I work from home and love the great outdoors, which means I pretty much live in workout apparel. Most of my days consist of the following: walking two to five miles, doing yoga stretches and "movement snacks," running errands, hopping onto virtual meetings, and over the past four months during my testing phase, completing home renovation projects as well. In addition, I try to fit in some strength training two to three times a week in my home gym (think: squats, lunges, and exercises with light dumbbells). I also traveled a bit, hiked most weekends, and completed a 5k turkey trot—I wore workout leggings for all of them. Suffice it to say, each of the five legging brands got quite a varied and vigorous workout during my test period!

The legging brands I tested were from Athleta, SET Active, Free Fly, Vuori, and Abercrombie. Here's how they ranked in descending order, from my least favorite to the best pair of them all.

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Abercrombie: YPB studioSOFT 7/8-Length Legging

Abercrombie YPB workout leggings
Alexa Mellardo


  • Supportive
  • Fits true to size


  • Thick fabric
  • Pills easily
  • Loose threads after washing

I've been a major, loyal Abercrombie fan and shopper ever since middle school. Leggings, a denim skirt, a polo shirt, and ballet flats were easily my go-to in the '00s, but more recently, I was excited to try one of the brand's newest collections called YPB, which stands for "Your Personal Best," and features workout clothes and activewear in trendy neutrals.

The thick fabric of the YPB studioSOFT 7/8-Length Legging ($70) kept me warm during my outdoor walks; it's definitely thicker and warmer than the other brands I tested. But overall, the thickness was a con for me, as I prefer a softer, thinner, more breathable legging on a daily basis. I was also disappointed in the fabric pilling and loose threads at the bottom of the right hem just after a few washes. Overall, this pair did not hold up to my expectations as well as the other brands.

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SET Active: LUXFORM® Legging

SET Active light green set
Alexa Mellardo


  • Exceptional color options
  • A variety of coordinating pieces
  • Soft and lightweight


  • Fits snug/runs small
  • Not enough support

My workout gear is essentially my "uniform" for life, fitness, and wherever each day takes me, which is why I was eager to try SET Active's matching sets. With several pieces from this brand on deck, I dressed my legging look up with a coordinating sports bra and sweatshirt and easily transitioned from exercise to errands. Plus, the color options are beyond impressive; I could basically fill every inch of my closet with pieces from this line.

I found the LUXFORM® Legging ($78) to run on the smaller side. I typically take an XS, but that size was a little too constricting. Size small fits me much better … so go a size up if you're unsure. As previously mentioned, I look for lightweight, soft fabric in my workout leggings—but they also need to be supportive. The SET Active pieces I tested out were definitely lightweight and soft but were not as supportive as I needed.

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Vuori: Daily Pocket Leggings

Vuori workout legging
Alexa Mellardo


  • Side pockets
  • Perfect length


  • Front tie
  • Jogger style

I tested Vuori's Daily Pocket Leggings ($98) and realized that once you get used to legging pockets, you kind of can't live without them. It's an ideal, safe place to stash away my phone, house key, and charge card. This particular pair also features the brand's BreatheInterlock™ performance fabric, which was exceptional for my daily stretching and exercises. The fabric is soft, breathable, and provides support.

Additionally, I typically have to fold the bottoms of my leggings under a bit to make them the ideal length. (I'm five foot four.) It was such a treat not to have to do that with Vuori's Daily Pocket Leggings; the length was just right for my height.

As far as cons are concerned, the front tie initially intrigued me because it was a different look than the workout leggings I have in my closet; it made me think "jogger-legging hybrid." As I wore them, though, I decided I prefer a clean waistline—without a tie—that can stay up securely while I'm exercising.

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Athleta: Transcend Stash Tight

Athleta workout leggings split image
Alexa Mellardo


  • Side pockets
  • Stretchy yet supportive
  • Fits true to size


  • Pricey

When it comes to workout attire (in my case, workout/lifestyle attire), it's pretty tough to beat one of the OG's, Athleta. This brand is a staple when it comes to performance and everyday wear. It's smart looking, fits so well, provides support in all the right places, and the fabric is breathable. I tried the Transcend Stash Tight ($109). Side pockets? Check. Great color palette? Check. The ability to stretch in every direction? Check. Did I look and feel good? Also check.

I don't have many cons to note about this particular pair of leggings, as it checked off all of my boxes. The only downside for me is the price point, as these leggings are the most expensive on this list. The price can be prohibitive, but when something looks, feels, and performs this well, I say wait for the sale and stock up on a couple of pairs!

Free Fly: Women's All Day Legging

Free Fly workout leggings
Alexa Mellardo


  • Buttery soft
  • Fits like a glove
  • Holds up


  • Comes in one inseam length

Drumroll, please! My hands-down favorite and perhaps one of the lesser-known brands on this list is Free Fly. If I had to describe these leggings in three different ways, it would probably be: unassuming, buttery soft, and my new daily uniform. Ironically, they're called the All Day Legging ($88), and they really did carry me through every day comfortably and efficiently. They were the most buttery soft out of all the brands I tried, the absolute best/flattering fit, and I've washed them a million times and they haven't pilled yet.

The All Day Legging does exactly what I expect my leggings to do, all at a middle-of-the-road price point. Fingers crossed that they add more colors to the lineup because I would buy every single one.

Alexa Mellardo
Alexa is the Mind + Body Deputy Editor of Eat This, Not That!, overseeing the M+B channel and delivering compelling fitness, wellness, and self-care topics to readers. Read more about Alexa
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