Exercising can be exhausting and challenging, but figuring out the best workout clothes doesn’t need to be.
After all, your clothes should be helping you with your workout by offering breathability as well as preventing things like chafing and injury. But which brands offer the very best when it comes to these all-important factors?
Whether you’re looking for super practical, supportive pieces or ones that look and feel great on (or both!), there are plenty of reputable retailers which deliver on the activewear front.
Ultimately, it comes down to what kind of exercise you’re doing and what is required for you to workout comfortably. Each brand has its perks - some offer more affordable activewear while others have pieces of the highest quality for a little more money. It’s very much a personal choice.
What to look out for in workout clothes?
The most important elements to lookout for in workout clothes are breathability, sweat-wicking fabrics, comfort and durability. Essentially, these will help you stay cool and comfortable when you are working out.
To help you along, we’ve tried and tested a number of products from high street favourites ASOS, Sweaty Betty, Nike, H&M, M&S and Boux Avenue and have given our verdicts. Between the retailers, they offer a selection of different price points and types of clothing for all activities - so we’ve tried to cover all bases and be as comprehensive as possible.
Here are our picks of the best workout clothes…
Best workout clothes overall
Perhaps one of the first brands you think of when you think of workout clothes, Nike has almost 50 years of experience when it comes to designing gym gear and their leggings do not disappoint.
We tested Nike’s The One Legging which fit like a glove and are super stretchy - so can accommodate for whatever sport of your choosing. They also pass the telling squat test, so there's no need to worry about underwear peeking through. Most of all, these leggings are extremely cooling, not only with the fast-drying material but also the mesh panels at the back of the legs ensure an airy workout.
Nike knows its stuff when it comes to activewear and each product is carefully thought out and designed to make a workout as comfortable as possible. The activewear may cost a little more but you get high quality pieces as a result and this can be seen in the Women's High-Support Sports Bra Nike Rival.
The bra is super comfortable and is moulded to fit your shape. It also does exactly what it says on the tin: offers high support during a workout - which any good sports bra should. The straps are also adjustable so can be made more supportive and sizes come in actual bra sizes, rather than ambiguous “S”, “M” or “L” sizing. The breathable mesh front and racerback style are also great design features for keeping things cool.
Best premium workout clothes
We tested the Super Sculpt High Waisted 7/8 Yoga Leggings and they did not disappoint. Coming in at £85, they are certainly one of the more expensive options on the market but, for their high quality and impressive features, we think they are worth the investment.
First of all the material is thick enough to pass the squat test but thin enough to stay breathable and comfortable. These leggings also deliver on the compression front, hugging your legs, hips and stomach and offering them the support they need during a workout - not to mention the bum-sculpting element, which is incredibly flattering (and who doesn’t want a peachy behind?). While the leggings are primarily meant for yoga, their sweat-wicking properties make them suitable for all workouts. Fundamentally, these leggings feel like they are made to last with their high-quality material and functional design. So while they are expensive, they are bound to stand the test of time, compared to other leggings.
We also tested the Flex Gym T-Shirt which was comfortable and lightweight. In fact, the top was so cosy there’s no reason why you couldn’t wear it for everyday use. The polyester and linen blend has a really nice feel to it which sits very loosely on the skin. It’s also made of sweat-wicking materials, so you don’t have to worry about breathability. It’s quite an absorbent fabric, which is good for taking sweat off your body, however, it's not as fast-drying as other tops on the market, so it’s definitely better suited for less intense workouts.
Best budget workout clothes
We tested out the lightweight and loose fitting ASOS 4505 icon train top, which is very cooling during a workout and the sweat-wicking material delivers on keeping moisture at bay. The tiny holes all across it definitely help with ventilation, too.
In terms of fit, the racer neckline isn’t the most flattering if you have a bigger chest but it's a little looser around the arms, which is great for movement and to keep sweat away (as the material doesn’t cling to your armpits).
For the price, this is a great, low budget sports top that is designed to keep you cool. Another standout feature of this top is the antibacterial finish which is always a good thing and this feature can be seen across the ASOS 4505 collection.
We also tried out the ASOS 4505 colour block leggings, which are bound to turn heads in the gym for all the right reasons with their bold design. The leggings themselves are slightly on the thicker side which means there’s no transparency and that they pass the almighty squat test. While this is a sign of high quality, it does mean it can get a little hot when you’re working out on them - particularly around the waist.
They’re made of a soft lightweight jersey which is incredibly stretchy and very comfortable for physically demanding workouts. However, this material isn’t as breathable as other gym leggings which are made with sweat-wicking fabrics - so they’re better suited to sessions with less impact, such as yoga.
Overall, they are a good pair of affordable leggings which make a nice change from black gym leggings.
H&M’s no-fuss activewear collection reflects the brand’s overall simple yet stylish aesthetic. The range is cheap and cheerful with various styles of tops, sports bras and leggings.
We tested the Sports Tights With Shaping Waist which come in at just £17.99 - so are certainly one of the cheaper options out there. In terms of fit, they are pretty true to size and feature a wide waist panel which is flattering and supportive. They’re made with a fast-drying, functional fabric and this is really noticeable during workouts as they’re great at keeping the sweat away. The only thing worth pointing out is that they were a little more transparent than other leggings, so didn’t pass the squat test with flying colours.
But if you’re looking for a simple pair of cheaper black leggings then these certainly tick all the right boxes.
There’s also plenty to like about the H&M Sports top. The rounded hem shape is flattering on the figure and the fast-drying mesh means you stay cool and comfortable during a workout. The polyester part of the top is also recycled - which is always a bonus. Coming in at just £12.99, it’s hard to refuse.
M&S isn’t typically viewed as a “go-to” brand younger women - let alone sportswear - but hear us out. The retailer’s gymwear selection should be on your radar, as it offers high quality leggings, tops and sports bras at fair prices.
We tested the Go Train 7/8 Gym Leggings and were impressed by the results. These leggings are perfect for running, gym sessions and high-intensity workouts, with features such as the moisture-wicking fabric and mesh panels - which are designed to keep you cool. They also feel nice to wear: they’re soft, stretchy and have a “barely there” feel to them, alongside a flattering waistband which sculpts your stomach.
The Half Zip Run Top was another piece we trialled and, once again, the quality was paramount. Great for outdoor runs or activities, the fast drying fabric helps you stay moisture-free and the top even features holes for your thumbs to go through, to keep things streamline. Overall, it’s super-soft and a really great choice for staying warm outside - but not sweaty.
If you can get past the fact it’s not a particularly Instagram-worthy brand for sportswear then M&S is a great choice. The garments are great quality, feature the all-important functional elements and are affordable - and that speaks for itself really.
Thought Boux Avenue was limited to lingerie and nightwear? Think again. The brand has a new activewear collection and it’s as aesthetically pleasing as it gets. Being such a new collection, the AW20 Boux Sport currently only has a core edit of textured crop tops and leggings and we tested both of these aesthetically pleasing pieces.
The leggings are made to flatter the body with a large high waist panel which provides ample support and sucks a stomach in. They also boast four-way stretch which makes them incredibly comfortable. Being on the slightly thicker side, these leggings have no transparency.
The standout feature of this crop top is how it looks and feels when it’s on. It’s super flattering and even features removable padding. It’s on the less supportive end of the spectrum, but is still great for a range of activities. It’s also incredibly breathable.
Boux Avenue’s new range is as flattering as sportswear comes. Designed to hug, smooth and sculpt, the range is very appealing.