These Leggings Stay Cool And Compressive In Even Your Hottest Summer Workouts

·10 min read
Photo credit: Christine Giordano
Photo credit: Christine Giordano

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Whether you're a HIIT, yoga, or Pilates enthusiast, workout motivation can be seriously hard to muster in the thick of summer. The heat. The humidity. The beads of sweat that develop from merely crossing the street. Add in the idea of leggings and gah!

But because shorts (cycling, running) aren't everyone's fav, breathable workout pants are key for having an active summer. "The last thing you want on those hot, humid days is non-breathable leggings," says Hannah Deely, senior market editor for Hearst Women's Fashion Group. "You'll be focused on the added body heat rather than your workout."

Luckily for your overheated legs, tights made out of lightweight and breathable fabric with moisture-wicking technology make a world of difference in the heat and can actually keep you feeling cooler than you would with bare legs.

Plus, despite their "second-skin" feel, leggings made with these fabrics also offer multi-way stretch and compression. This way, you reap performance benefits without catching fire.

Another thing to consider? Design. Leggings with lots of seams can create chafing, Deeley says. Instead, smooth, seamless silhouettes with laser-cut designs are best if you're craving a fashion moment.

Equip your activewear drawer to handle the hottest workouts of the year with these 13 pairs of summer workout leggings, from the trainer-tested to the internet sensations.

1. Bandier All Access Center Stage Legging

For celebrity trainer Megan Roup, founder of the dance cardio and sculpting workout method The Sculpt Society, there's no better summer legging than All Access Center Stage leggings. "I love that these leggings are thin, but have a compression material that helps you feel pulled in in all the right places," Roup says. (She also loves that the thick waistband stays put during all of her sculpting and dance cardio sequences.)

City Row and SLT instructor Shea McAdoo is another die-hard fan. “I own every possible variation of this legging, and they are all my time favorite. I find when a legging is super thin and lightweight, they don’t always hold you in how you would like. These manage to do both.”

3. FP Movement Good Karma Legging

If your summer sweats involve Pilates or yoga, these are for you. "[This is] my go-to workout legging for summer," says Lia Bartha, founder of B The Method. "They are super-soft and lightweight with breathable holes along the backside to release heat. They also have SPF 30 UV protection and come in so many beautiful colors!" she adds.

3. Lululemon Fast and Free High-Rise Tight

"It's super important that my leggings fit well, not only for aesthetics but for performance," says Latoya Julce, an instructor at dance cardio studio 305 Fitness. "I swear by anything Lululemon as the quality and longevity of the material never disappoint me."

With a barely-there feel and plenty of functionality (including side drop-in and discreet waistband pockets), this pair features the brand's ultra-lightweight, Nulux fabric, which is ideal for workouts where you seriously sweat.

4. Alo High-Waist Airbrush Legging

Shantani Moore, an instructor for Pure Barre GO, deems this pair her must-have for summer. "The material snaps back perfectly, so you always feel great in them," she says. "I still have leggings from my first year of teaching, and they still look brand new seven years later."

Available in full-length and 7/8-length, these leggings have flat-locked seams (and no side seams at all!) to reduce chafing in hot weather.

5. Athleta Salutation Stash Pocket II 7/8 Tight

These 7/8-length tights feature everything you need in a summer workout legging: They're quick-drying, moisture-wicking, and crazy breathable. Plus, they have a UPF 50+ rating (to protect your skin on sunny days).

6. Halle Berry x Sweaty Betty Jinx Power Workout Legging

If you’ve been tempted by Halle Berry’s re-spin collaboration with Sweaty Betty, Isopure Athlete, Ashley Joi, CPT, says the Jinx Power Workout Legging is super sweat-wicking and quick-drying for all outdoor or indoor activities in the heat. “[They’re] super stretchy, comfy, and have supportive fabric," she says. "I love the graphic logo print all over because it's subtle and yet powerful. You instantly feel like a superhero, or maybe I just channel Cat Woman while I’m in these leggings because of Ms. Halle.”

7. Girl, Get After It GRL PWR Fast & Free II Tight

Another heat-proof legging Moore loves? “My new favorite is the 25-inch GRL PWR Fast & Free Tight. This inclusive female-owned athleisure brand has partnered up with Lululemon, and I am obsessed," she says." [These] tights are high-waisted and squat-proof, have pockets for your phone, keys, or iPod, and the waistband is just the right amount of snug, so no need to pull up your leggings in the middle of the workout."

Not to mention, a portion of the sales goes toward empowering communities through the Gear that Gives Back program. Cute, comfortable, and conscious? What’s not to love?

8. Beyond Yoga Heather Rib High-Waisted Midi Legging

Amanda Freeman, the founder, and CEO of SLT and Stretch*d, swears that these leggings are the only full-length ones she'll wear for warm-weather workouts. What makes them so good? The ribbed performance fabric. "They are lightweight and so perfect for hot temps," she says.

9. Girlfriend Collective Compressive High-Rise Legging

From high-intensity circuits to rock climbing and restorative yoga, these leggings (which feature four-way stretch and compressive fabric made from recycled water bottles) are a favorite of Marcia Meade, Pilates instructor at obé fitness. "I look for my leggings to be lightweight and breathable," she says. "Girlfriend Collective is fabulous at nailing these points. Not only [that], but the fit allows me to run about town even after my workout. Talk about living your best sweat life."

10. ICONI Seamless High-Waisted Legging

If the fact that they made Oprah’s 2020 gift list isn't enough to immediately sell you on these moisture-wicking leggings by ICONI (“I Can Overcome, Nothing’s Impossible”), perhaps the hundreds of rave reviews on Amazon will. Not only are they seamless and unrestrictive, but the high-rise waist stays put during your lowest squats and sweatiest endurance bursts.

“The high waisted design is ingenious, and as advertised, they do not slide down when doing squats,” says reviewer Lisa J. “Extremely comfortable, supportive, yet light and breathable. Oh, and did I mention this is a Black woman-owned business???"

11. Michi Stardust Crop Legging

"The things I pay the most attention to in my workout leggings are the waistband and the grip around my calves," says Jess King, cycling instructor at Peloton. "I like my leggings to have a soft, thick, mid-rise waistband that won't cut into my sides or inseam inappropriately or roll over when I move." These leggings tick all her boxes, BTW. They have eight-way stretch, moisture-wicking fabric, and mesh panels offer plenty of airflow.

12. CRZ YOGA Women’s Naked Feeling High Waisted Yoga Pants

With a“naked feeling” in the name and 11,000+ Amazon reviews, it’s safe to say these leggings will pique your easy-breezy interest. “These are amazing quality. Super soft material. Thick enough to where I know they won’t be see-through, but still lightweight and breathable,” says reviewer SBoot. Fans of these also note the mega-roomy pockets, spot-on compression, and stay-up waistband—perfect for outdoor summer activities from jogs to hikes.

13. Outdoor Voices TechSweat 7/8 Flex Leggings

For any hot workout, Deely loves the moisture-wicking magic of Outdoor Voices' TeachSweat fabric. The Flex leggings, which come in all sorts of bright colors, are one of her faves. "They've never fallen down and feel like a dream," she says. Don't get tripped up by the fabric's slightly thicker look; the cooling power is real.

14. Alala Vamp Tight

Summer is the season for wearing white, right? These optic tights are silky-smooth to the touch..but have double-layered upper panels in the front and back for legit coverage. Even with the double layers, though, the seaming is designed to be "chafe free" (bless!) and they're super lightweight, but still supportive. (They're finished with power mesh at the waistband for added breathability.

15. Varley Figueroa Leggings

Made from a moisture-wicking and quick-dry Letelux material that's incredibly soft, here's a pair of leggings that feature four-way stretch, side pockets (for small essentials), and a laser-cut hem. What's more: Reflective details on the lower legs help keep you safe if you sweat after the sun goes down to beat some of the heat.

16. Ultracor Diamond Mesh Legging

What makes these made-to-order performance tights totally summer-worthy is that they’re made from a breathable two-way stretch fabric that creates a seamless look and feel (read: no chafing). It also features mesh detailing and UV protection. Hello, airflow and sun safety! Oh, and then there’s the built-in underwear so that you can minimize unnecessary layers and avoid sweat buildup all workout long.

Reviewer Rose R. notes the mega-support and lightweight feel, deeming them her “new favorite leggings.”

17. Lululemon Align Pant

CorePower Yoga instructor Christie Klach claims these as her go-to in the summer heat. (FYI, they're made from the same lightweight Nulux fabric as the other Lulus on this list.) "I prefer to wear leggings over shorts when I work out (even during the summer), and the material of these leggings is so breathable," Klach says. "They release the heat my body builds throughout a workout. Not to mention, they're super soft, come in really fun colors and prints, and I can lounge in them just as much as work out in them." What more can you ask for?

18. Alo High-Waist Snakeskin Vapor Legging

Here for animal print? Same. And so is Allyson Gottfried, an instructor for Club Pilates GO. “I’m currently obsessed with the high-waist snakeskin vapor legging by Alo. [They’re] engineered to be extra lightweight with cooling moisture-wicking, [feel] like a second skin, and compress and lift. Bonus: they’re super sassy and chic—I love a good studio-to-street look any time of the year.” Enough said.

19. Training C.A.M.P. Solid Wide Waistband Sports Legging

Does it surprise you that a former pro-athlete and celebrity trainer would design a super breathable, made-to-perform legging that’s perfect for summer? Us either. Enter these super-cute leggings from Curtis Williams’s Training C.A.M.P, which are a fave of fitness and nutrition coach Brittany Watts, CPT, founder of WattsElite. “I love these leggings because they’re supportive but allow free movement and a lot of airflow. Their breathability makes them perfect for summer use."

20. FP Movement Six In The Morning Set

If you’re all about a head-to-toe look, this ribbed set is so up your alley. In fact, it’s a favorite of Miami-based trainer Fanny Rivas, CPT—especially in thick humidity. “I love bright-colored leggings and something about these orange leggings gets me right in the mood to start my day!”

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