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Those tight-in-a-good-way pants that keep your badonk secure during a run might be too constrictive for a barre class. Yep, you heard us right—one style does not fit all types of workouts.
Whether you’re hitting the pavement, the dance floor, or a yoga mat, you need exercise pants that help you kick ass, not hold you back. So we polled some fitness pros who know (they do this stuff all day, everyday, after all) how to dress best when you’re sweating it out. Check it out.
What to look for: Cool, stay-dry fabric, stretch, medium to high compression
Any cardio dance class that involves a lot of jumping and bouncing requires a strong dose of compression for muscle support, says Sadie Kurzban, founder and CEO of 305 Fitness. However, depending on your flexibility and the type of movement you’re doing, you might prefer to opt for medium compression to maintain a greater range of motion. “I want to be able to bend, snap, and shake all over the dance floor,” says Kurzban. You’ve got to get your groove on, right?
Luxe: Nike Epic Lux running tights, $110, nike.com
Budget: Gaiam Women’s Follow My Line legging, $18.17 to 38.08, amazon.com
What to look for: high waist, wide waistband, light to medium compression
Any barre-loving woman knows that the deeper you squat, the more you shake—and the shaking means it’s working. So come prepared to dip it low with a pair of pants that offers enough stretch and a compression level that allows you to move, says Tanya Becker, co-founder and CEO of Physique 57. Another must? Skip the low-rise styles in favor of a higher waist. “It helps you hold your abs in,” says Becker.
Luxe: Onzie high rise legging, $69, onzie.com
Budget: Champion PowerFlex Champion Shape tight, $25.67 to $50, amazon.com
What to look for: high compression, stay-put waistband, temperature regulation
The last thing you want to think about during a run is, quite frankly, your pants. Look for a pair that feels as comfortable as a second skin, says Jennifer Blackburn, Equinox Bethesda Group Fitness Manager, meaning no pinch-y waistbands, a high, supportive compression, and breathable fabric that responds to changes in temperature to keep you warm or cool as needed. (If you’re ready to keep the body sculpting going, check out Women’s Health‘s Ignite routine created by Next Fitness Star, Nikki Metzger.)
Luxe: Vimmia X Impact pant, $180, vimmia.com
Budget: Under Armour Women’s heatgear capri pant, $23.99 to 56.99, amazon.com
What to look for: light compression, wide and flat waistband, stretch
“No one has time to hike up her pants when she’s trying to flow,” says Sarah Levey, cofounder of Y-7 Yoga. The waistband should be wide and flat, so that it stays put throughout your class—and doesn’t dig into your lower back during mat-based poses, she says. And leave the fancy, tight fabrics at home. “My favorite pants to wear in hot yoga have fabric that’s designed for people who are sweating heavily, as opposed to regular lycra,” she says.
Luxe: Full length tights, $140, vieactivewear.com
Budget: Danskin women’s Ibiza crop legging, 14.83 to 34.85, amazon.com
What to look for: medium compression, stay-put waistband, non-slippery fabric, no metal parts
“In Pilates, We move and stretch our legs in all different directions, as well as spend time upside-down in exercises, so the last thing I want to worry about is my pants falling down,” says Jenn Seracuse, director of Pilates at FLEX Studios.
Since you’re spending the entire class pressed against a mat, machine, or other apparatus, you need pants that a) won’t slip and b) won’t snag. “My go-to is a pair with no zippers or metal parts, so that I can safely work out on the equipment,” says Alycea Ungaro, owner and founder of Real Pilates. Think medium compression with tons of stretch, and no extras like buttons or zippers.