We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.
Whether you’re a devoted gym bunny, are training for your next 5k or dabble in yoga now and again, a pair of good-quality, high performing leggings are essential. The central piece in one’s workout kit, they need to withstand any activity that comes their way, feel comfortable to wear, wash well and, very importantly, look good. (This is a legitimate consideration – it’s proven that clothing can increase confidence, and therefore performance.)
There are thousands of brands out there vying for the title of making the best leggings, but for us, two names top the bill: Nike and Lululemon. Widely regarded as the go-to for leggings that deliver on form and function, both have garnered a dedicated fan club.
Founded in 1998, Canadian brand lululemon Athletica initially made its name for producing luxe yoga leggings. They quickly gained an A-list following, with their leggings worn by the likes of Giselle Bundchen, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Reese Witherspoon. Now, they’re diversified their offering, producing leggings that cater for all manner of sports from running and cycling, to pilates and training.
Heritage by comparison, Nike (originally named Blue Ribbon Sports) was founded in 1964 with the aim of producing high-performing running shoes. Having expanded into sportswear, fast forward 50 years and it’s one of the world’s most valuable fashion brands. They’re worn by top sportspeople too, including Serena Williams.
With both boasting impressive credentials, the question is, which brand’s leggings are best? We’ve put different types of leggings from each label through their paces, comparing key factors to find out.
Lululemon leggings vs Nike leggings: Which pair are best?
Lululemon offers a huge range of leggings specifically made for high-intensity workouts, such but the best are widely considered to be the All The Right Places Pant (£118, lululemon.co.uk). Crafted from an innovative Full-On Luxtreme fabric, they’re soft, sweat-wicking and boast four-way stretch – for flexibility and superior fit. Even better, zoned compression helps to support your muscles. The fabric is super soft, and they also feature a flattering high waistband that stays put. The concealed pocket in the waistband is perfect for storing valuables, while the reflective stripe on the ankle cuff will keep you safe in low light.
Regarded as the best all-rounder for high level exercise, Nike’s One Leggings (£39.95, nike.com) are made using intelligent Dri-FIT technology. This means they provide total dryness even during the sweatiest of workouts. The smart V-shaped waistband works with the contours of the body for maximum comfort and non-slip, and sits on the natural waistline for a stomach-smoothing silhouette. Like lululemon’s All The Right Places Pant, they’re also crafted from soft-touch fabric with hidden pockets for keys. However lululemon do have the extra benefit of squat-proof fabric, providing ful coverage in all positions.
With its origins in yoga, it’s no surprise that lululemon comes up trumps for leggings perfectly suited to low-level activity. The Align Pant (£88, lululemon.co.uk) is the style to know about. Made from the brand’s signature Nulu fabric, which boasts supreme flexibility to allow maximum movement and stretch, the leggings feature a wide, high-rise waistband that keeps you feeling secure. Even better, it lies flat against the skin for maximum comfort. This design is also available in a variety of leg lengths so you can find the perfect crop. It’s no wonder these are one of the brand’s bestsellers.
Not to be dismissed are Nike’s Yoga Luxe leggings (£64.95, nike.com) which are made from Infinalon; a super-light, super-thin and super-strong fabric, which feels at once flexible, secure and very comfortable. Though stretchy, they have a gentle amount of compression that hugs the body for a pleasant sense of hold. They are also breathable (thus good for hot yoga classes) and opaque, so won’t flash your pants when you’re in Downward Dog.
Looking good in your leggings is just as important as feeling good, so as well as performance, style-factor is a key consideration. If your taste errs on the side of simple, Nike’s predominantly black-and-white offering will be up your street. However, if you’re after something a little more fashion-forward, lululemon’s palette of chic shades is perhaps a better option. They can be worn as part of non-workout leggings outfits too. Most legging styles come in a range of sophisticated block colours; think olive, burgundy, navy, grey and, of course, black. There’s also a selection of subtle prints such as tone-on-tone camo and graphic florals.
Finding the perfect fit is key to comfort, and will stop your leggings from sliding around during workouts. lululemon have criticised in the past for not producing an inclusive range of sizing, but now offer a UK size 4 to 18. However for sizes to fit all, Nike comes out on top. In addition to their usual sizing, which ranges from UK 4-6 to 24-26, the brand has also just launched a range of maternity leggings suitable for every stage of pregnancy.
There’s no getting around it, lululemon is pricey. Prices start at £49 for the Wunder Under Crop High-Rise, and rise to £148 for the LAB Varsa tight. So, whichever way you look at it, these are an investment best suited to those who exercise regukarly. Nike, on the other hand, is much more purse-friendly. Prices range from £21.95 for the basic Women’s Swoosh leggings to £109.95 for the technical Nike Epic Luxe Run Division leggings. If you’re starting out, this is the brand to go for.
Which ones get your vote?