The Best Yoga Pants
Lululemon Align II
The Lululemon Align II legging is a new addition to our line-up this year, and it turned out to be our favorite pair! They are stretchy and moved well no matter what pose we were contorting ourselves into. We particularly love the high-waist; with just a simple, thin elastic band to keep this pair up, we never felt squeezed or impeded in our practice. The material offers great shaping without feeling too constricting; it's a perfect balance!
The Align II legging wasn't the most breathable pair in the test group; we recommend the Lululemon Train 7/8 below if you need something for heated classes. These leggings are available in an array of colors, styles, and sizes. If you're looking for a new pair of high-waisted leggings, our Editors' Choice winner won't disappoint.
Read review: Lululemon Align II
Best Bang for the Buck
90 Degree by Reflex High Waist Powerflex
The 90 Degree by Reflex High Waist Powerflex is a special pair of leggings, offering great performance at a reasonable price. If you think it's ridiculous to spend an arm and a leg on something that you wear to work out in, the Powerflex leggings are your new best friend. For a fraction of that, you get a lightweight pair with great breathability and ease of movement. Why spend more?
There are a few downsides to this pair. The material is stretchy but not particularly soft or comfortable. While the pair that we tested this time around seemed well-made and we didn't have any unraveling seams, we experienced this while testing previous pairs; something to keep in mind if you like to keep your leggings for a long time (along with the price point). If you go through multiple pairs of leggings a year though, then this might be the perfect pair for you, as you can buy three for the price of one "designer" pair!
Read review: 90 Degree by Reflex High Waist Powerflex
Best for Hot Yoga
Lululemon Train Times
If you like your yoga hot with a side of steamy, you'll want to have a look at the Lululemon Train 7/8. Made with a sweat-wicking blend of Nylon and Lycra, the leggings feel soft and silky and will keep you from overheating when the furnace is cranking. They're our favorite thing to wear in a heated class, as the material has mesh venting strategically placed on both legs and is quick-drying. They're tight and compressive and the perfect for any high-intensity workout or yoga class.
These pants are almost too tight at times, the waistband really squeezes and sometimes restricts ease of movement in those funky yoga poses. They just come in the 7/8th length at the moment, with an array of colors and patterns. These leggings are also on the pricey end, costing a pretty penny. That being said, these pants had no pilling after our testing period and proved to be quite durable.
Read review: Lululemon Train Times
Best for All-Day Comfort
Beyond Yoga Caught in the Midi High-Waisted
If you're like us, your closet confirms that you live in yoga pants. Some are for around the house or as pajamas, some are "outside" pairs for hiking, climbing, or running errands, and some are for actually practicing yoga. Owning a pair (or more) that is comfortable enough for all-day wear is essential. Some models might hold everything in and make your tush look ohm-mazing, but if you can't even sit down in them comfortably, then what is the point? The Beyond Yoga High Waisted Midi is our favorite pair for those lounge-around-the-house days. The material is soft, cozy, and stretchy, while still compressing key areas. The high-waist is comfortable and stays in place without digging into you.
The downside to the soft material is that it is not breathable, and once wet, they dry slowly. This makes them ill-suited to most strenuous yoga classes, though they still work well for Yin. If you are looking for a pair of leggings for lounging, or to wear under a dress or sweater, you'll thank us after trying out the Beyond Yoga.
Read review: Beyond Yoga High Waisted Midi
Best for Contouring and Support
Alo Yoga High-Waisted Airbrush
The Alo Yoga High-Waisted Airbrush legging is stretchy and moves well no matter what pose we contort ourselves into. We particularly love the high-waist on this pair; other manufacturers rely on an elastic band to stay up, but having that around your tummy is not always comfortable. This pair stays up all by itself, and we never found ourselves needing to re-adjust it mid-class. We also appreciated the contouring and support that they provide. The material offers great shaping without feeling too constricting; it's a perfect balance!
The Airbrush legging wasn't the most breathable pair in the test group. We also didn't particularly like the look of the "glossy" material on some colorways, but it is available in more matte-like finishes. If you're looking for a new pair of high-waisted leggings, this Top Pick will not disappoint!
Read review: Alo Yoga High-Waisted Airbrush
Why You Should Trust Us
This review is brought to you by OutdoorGearLab contributor Cam McKenzie Ring and Hannah Hall. Cam is no stranger to the restorative and beneficial effects of yoga. These days, when she is not on the mat, you can find her in the sandstone landscape around Las Vegas with her two boys. She's also a five-year veteran of Yosemite Search and Rescue and an accomplished, 20-year rock climber with El Cap big wall routes on her resume.
Hannah has dabbled in yoga since she was twelve years old when her family started going to the local studio. Nowadays, Hannah uses yoga to recover from long shifts in the hospital as a Cardiac Telemetry nurse or long days in the mountains, preferably in Yosemite National Park. Hannah is an accomplished climber with a deep love for yoga that was revived this year when she started practicing at a new studio in Sacramento. You will find her totting around her worn out and stained mat that she uses to practice - rain or shine, yoga room or her very own nature studio.
The market research necessary to start this review entailed an initial pool of over 60 different models of yoga pant. From this first cut, we selected 15 of the most promising to test side-by-side. Next, we put together a group of long-time yoga practitioners and teachers to conduct a varied series of poses in each pair. We also paid special attention to breathability and durability and devised unique test protocols for each. Breathability was examined during a series of vinyasa classes, in which the pants were checked for moisture retention. Durability was examined over months of use in a variety of activities, such as wear around the house, hikes and walks, and at least ten wash and wear cycles.
Related: How We Tested Yoga Pants
Analysis and Test Results
Finding the right pair of yoga pants for your needs, the style you practice, and your body type is a difficult challenge. We want to wear something that fits well, doesn't impede our movements, wicks away our sweat, makes our derrières look good, and is not see-through! On top of that, regular yoga practitioners need several pairs in their closet, so we also want something that's affordable and durable. That's a tall order to fulfill! The truth is, you might never find that one perfect pair that's best for everything, as the right option for a heated yoga class is different than that for a gentle Yin class. However, some considerations make selecting the right pair easier, from what style you practice to your own body's proportions. Keep reading below to see how the different models we tested fared in our side-by-comparison tests and what to look for when shopping on a budget.
Related: Buying Advice for Yoga Pants
The price of a pair of yoga pants can vary from $20 to over $100! Have you ever wondered if there is actually a difference between the cheapest and most expensive pairs, or if we're simply paying for the logo? The answer is yes, and also probably yes. We tested a variety of cheap "no-name" brands and ones from the most well-known labels in yoga apparel today. The classic "higher-end" brands often performed better than the inexpensive pairs off Amazon, but not always. Testing revealed that inexpensive pairs, like the 90 Degree by Reflex scored high, while expensive ones, like The North Face Perfect Core did not earn as high of marks. More often than not though, we didn't like too many of the cheaper models out there, so keep that in mind when shopping for a bargain, and be sure to try (or order from a website that allows easy returns).
Breathability is a combination of a few things: the weight of the material, which affects how hot you become; the ability to vent your perspiration or wicking; and the drying time. A final "cosmetic" consideration is how the material changes in color when wet. Some materials barely register a difference, and others leave you with embarrassing sweat stains, but more on that in a minute.
When testing for breathability, we wore each pair multiple times to the same yoga room for the same type of yoga class (Vinyasa) over several months. The temperature in the room was consistent, and while there might have been slight differences in perspiration output on a day to day basis, by doing the same level of vigorous practice, we got a great sense of how the various pairs fared in this category. We noted how we felt at the end of our practice, what the pants looked like, the amount of perspiration on the pant, and the change in color, if any.
The Lululemon Train 7/8, Teeki Hot Pant, and Onzie Capri all earned top marks in this category. They ventilated so well that by the end of class, we had barely worked up a sweat, and we hardly noticed where there was any moisture accumulation. It's no surprise then that these were also the lightest weight pairs in this review. The thinner material in these models prevented us from getting too hot in the first place and also allowed our moisture to evaporate away. The clear failures, when it came to breathability, were the Alo High Waisted Airbrush, Beyond Yoga, and The North Face Perfect Core. These models were heavier, which kept us warm during class, and the material did not vent as well as other models of similar weight.
We then wore our top performers for breathability to heated yoga and pilates classes to see how they fared in extreme conditions: a 105F room with 40% humidity. In this type of class, we are typically soaked through with sweat by the 20-minute mark regardless of what we are wearing, but we wanted to note whether the material retained moisture or let it evaporate. The Alo High Waisted Airbrush felt fairly breathable in our initial tests, but in a heated room, the fabric turned clammy and constricting. We got wet and stayed wet. The standout for this portion of our tests is the Lululemon Train 7/8; the ultra-thin fabric wicked our sweat away, did not show any change in color when wet, and was so quick to dry that we felt almost completely dry again after Savasana.
Ease of Movement
Along with breathability, ease of movement is one of the top considerations that we look for in athletic wear, particularly for this practice where at some point in our practice, we may contort ourselves into all manner of pretzel-like configurations. Some poses take years to master, and you never want to find yourself close to attaining your goals, only to be limited by your clothing. For this category, we not only considered how well we could move and stretch in each pair, but also whether certain design features impeded our movement. In many cases, it was an extra feature which hindered movement that resulted in a lower score for a pair; on the whole, we found the synthetic nylon/spandex materials to be relatively equal in their ability to stretch and move with us.
Our Editors' Choice winner, the Lululemon Align II, is one of the highest scores in this category. The Align II leggings are stretchy and have a buttery-soft feeling to the fabric. Whether folding in, up, or down, we never felt impeded by this pair. Of all the models in this review, this is the one that never had us cursing our pants mid-class. Sometimes the best pair is the one you don't notice!
A close runner up was the Alo High Waisted Airbrush leggings. These also earned top marks in ease of movement and were just edged out this year for our Editors' Choice Award.
The models that scored the worst in this category are The North Face Perfect Core, Lululemon Train ⅞, and Teeki Hot Pants. The North Face and Lululemon Train were both designed to be incredibly tight and constricting, especially around the core. Not only was this uncomfortable, but it also impeded our practice and made even a simple forward fold uncomfortable. On the other hand, the Teeki Hot Pants were loose and constantly fell down our waist, threatening to expose our bare bottoms to the rest of the yoga class! This felt like it impeded our movement in another way and had us continually adjusting and grabbing our pants to ensure we wouldn't moon anyone.
Comfort and Fit
Let's face it; some of us practically live in our yoga pants. We wear them to yoga, and then to the gym, and running errands on the weekend … we even write gear reviews in them! When it comes to comfort and fit, we're looking for something that performs well in the studio and beyond. Can we leave this pair on all day without feeling too confined or wind up with a bunch of marks on our skin from excessive seaming? While the ideal pair has a compressive material that sucks everything in and offers some lift, we also don't want to feel too constricted, particularly when it comes to all-day wear and comfort.
The most comfortable pair in our test group is the Beyond Yoga legging. It has a high waist with only a thin elastic band at the top that doesn't bite into your waist. The material is extra-soft, and we loved wearing this pair all day long.
The material on the Lululemon Align II is also comfortable enough for all-day wear. Lululemon has crafted the specially designed fabric in a way that the material feels buttery soft against our skin. The Alo High Waisted Airbrush pants also ranked very high for comfort and had that all day comfy feel - maybe just a little less than the Lululemon Align and Beyond Yoga leggings.
The pairs that didn't score well in this category are either too compressive or have weird features that interfered with our comfort. For example, The North Face Perfect Core leggings have a tummy-control panel that helps support and shape your midsection (see photo below on the left), but it feels confining, and it's hard to wear them for more than an hour or two. The Lululemon Train 7/8 also feature a compressive material that was somewhat uncomfortable and constraining. We also had some fit issues with the HOFI High Waist which had extra fabric around the crotch area that would bunch up awkwardly and wasn't comfortable, to say the least.
Finally, the Teeki Hot Pant has no elastic in the waistband; just a doubled-up layer of the main fabric of the pant. You think that would make it more comfortable, particularly when compared to the excessively tight TNF Perfect Core, but instead, it's very uncomfortable. Every time we bend over, there is no structure to hold our tummy in, and the waist keeps sliding down on us in class (see photo below on the right).
In judging this feature, we evaluated how the different models held up during our recent three-month testing period, and also compared the fabric to older versions from our testers' closets.
Pilling is the main culprit to the longevity of your clothes, as pills ruin the look of a garment and are more likely to happen in a well-made model before a seam tears or the material wears through, though we did have some issues with that as well! Pilling is a standard problem with yoga pants; the friction caused by our legs rubbing against themselves or the mat helps cause the formation of tiny balls, or pills. These pills tend to hang on to synthetic fabrics more than natural ones, as the fibers are stronger and less likely to break. Also, we typically wash our yoga pants after every use, and how many of us remember to turn them inside out or line dry them?
During our three-month testing period, we noticed some pill formation on only a couple of pairs: the Alo High Waisted Airbrush, The North Face Perfect Core and 90 Degree by Reflex Powerflex. There was a very minimal amount of pilling noticed on the Lululemon Align II, but we washed and threw these pants in the dryer multiple times before reading that we should be "line drying" them to best preserve the fabric.
We prefer to line dry our yoga pants, and find this extends the lifespan.
This category is slightly more subjective than the others; however, we did poll a variety of ladies to get their opinions on the different styles we tested, and there were some consistent trends. We all loved the look of the Lululemon Align II and Alo Yoga Airbrush, and we were all dismayed by the print placement on the Teeki Hot Pant. Some of us loved the wild patterns of the HOFI High Waisted, while some couldn't see themselves pulling off that look if they had to run into the grocery store after class or pick up the kids from school. Here are our style ratings for each pair.
When it comes to yoga fashion, there are as many color and pattern options out there as there are aphorisms in the Yoga Sutras. Don't let the latest trend intimidate you; to feel your best on and off the mat, pick what looks and feels most comfortable on you.
It is true that we want a lot from our yoga pants. We want them to be able to wick away our sweat, stretch and bend with our bodies, hold up class after class, and look good through it all. Many factors go into finding the perfect pair, and we hope that our side-by-side comparisons have helped narrow down the selection for you. Many thanks to Martina Zandonella of Martina Zando Photography for the beautiful images in this review.
— Hannah Hall & Cam McKenzie Ring