The increasing popularity of stylish, trendy athletic wear has made über-comfortable clothing something that’s just as much for the gym as it is outside of it. But as with all clothing, it’s not just about looking good. You want to feel good, feel comfortable and feel confident — whether you’re working out or lounging around.
“High-quality activewear can enhance your workout experience for a multitude of reasons,” shares Miriam Fried, a personal trainer based in New York City and the founder of MF Strong. “If your clothing is uncomfortable, doesn’t breathe well, is always falling down or in need of adjustment, it can distract you from your workout and make it less effective and enjoyable.” There’s also a confident component to great activewear, shares Daniella Means, a professional powerlifter and vice president of The Hybrid Gym Group. “If you feel good, and think that you look good in your activewear, you’re more likely to perform with more confidence in your abilities.”
“Different modalities of exercise often can call for different attire,” Fried adds. “So it’s important to shop with your activity in mind.” Whether you’re a runner, yogi, lifter, cyclist or anything else, there’s a stylish and functional activewear brand out there just for you.
That’s why we’ve chatted with industry pros — Olympic athletes, sought-after trainers and the most in-demand instructors on the brands they wear while they’re working and while they’re kicking back. So if you’re ready to upgrade your closet and kill those workouts in style, check out these 13 activewear brands that they (and we) absolutely love — from established ones to newer direct-to-consumer options.
Alo Yoga was created in 2007 as an activewear brand specifically for yoga lovers, but it has since evolved into one beloved by everyone from the barre-obsessed and Pilates loyalists to celebrities as a street style option. And there’s a really good reason for that. The brand’s super-soft and comfortable activewear is probably the most luxurious-feeling gym clothing you’ll ever wear, and it was a favorite mentioned by a couple of the experts we spoke with. “Alo Yoga activewear is great quality, flattering and lasts a long time,” shares Emily Pareti, a yoga and aerial instructor based in New Jersey. In fact, Alo Yoga (and the brand’s leggings in particular) are her big splurge when it comes to all things activewear.
High-Waist Airlift Leggings ($118; aloyoga.com)
The brand’s High-Waist Airlift Leggings are Pareti’s favorite leggings. They’re buttery and soft while still supportive, and the material truly feels like a second skin. Plus, the material is so sleek and flattering that dressing up these leggings with a cute crop top is a breeze.
High-Waist Solid Vapor Leggings ($128; aloyoga.com)
Rachel Primé, a yoga and barre instructor based in Boston, is partial to the brand’s High-Waist Solid Vapor Leggings. She notes that they’re more compressive than the comparable Lululemon Align Leggings, so she saves them “for high-impact workouts” or anytime she wants “a bit more of a hug” from her leggings.
High-Waist Airbrush Legging ($82; aloyoga.com)
Another option we wanted to call out: the High-Waist Airbrush Legging, arguably Alo Yoga’s most classic legging. Like many of Alo Yoga’s leggings, there are no side seams, and it’s made from the brand’s signature Airbrush fabric that features moisture-wicking antimicrobial technology. It’s the perfect option to take you from the gym to just about anywhere and has been spotted on celebrities like Gigi Hadid.
When it comes to tops, Alo Yoga boasts some of the cutest styles that are equal parts appropriate for a class or hanging out with friends.
Wellness Bra ($62; aloyoga.com)
The Wellness Bra is a perfect example of the brand’s versatility. It offers medium support that’s perfect for yoga or barre while also being a super-stylish take on the traditional sports bra. The trendy ribbed material and universally flattering cut is a big win in our books.
Cover Tank ($54; aloyoga.com)
The brand’s bestselling Cover Tank is the perfect everyday tank. It’s absurdly soft, the cropped length is just right and it’s absolutely cute enough to take you from yoga class to the café around the corner without skipping a beat.
If you’re looking for brand recognition, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a piece of activewear more ubiquitous than Lululemon leggings. Popular with yogis, runners and influencers alike, athletic wear from Lululemon is super popular for its fashionable look and unbelievably soft materials.
Align High-Rise Pant (starting at $98; lululemon.com)
“Lululemon is my go-to,” shares Primé. “The brand’s Align High-Rise Pant has been my tried and true for years.” And Primé isn’t alone — the leggings pretty much have their own cult following (we named them the best workout leggings of 2021). “I have several pairs that have gone through dozens of workouts and washes and are still in incredible shape,” she shares. “I wear them to teach, exercise, lounge, travel — they’re so functional yet comfortable.” The Align Pant is part of Lululemon’s Align Collection, which features a range of minimally designed bottoms made from Lululemon’s buttery soft and lightweight Nulu material.
Align Jogger ($98; lululemon.com)
Primé is a fan of the Align Jogger, which as she describes “offer a more relaxed fit with pockets” as well as the Align Short (starting at $58; lululemon.com), which she calls “perfect for the warmer seasons.” The shorts, like the joggers and the leggings, are available in multiple lengths so you can choose which style is best for your needs.
Lululemon’s Wunder Under High-Rise Tight ($98; lululemon.com)
In addition to the Align Pant, Maya Monza, a SoulCycle Instructor and the founder of Après Sweat, is a fan of Lululemon’s Wunder Under High-Rise Tight, which are a little less soft and more sweat-wicking. “Lululemon products are the best quality I have seen in my over 10 years working in the fitness industry,” Monza shares. “I do admit that I have to save up to buy some more expensive pieces, but they are well worth it for the quality,” she says.
Lululemon Align Reversible Bra ($58; lululemon.com)
When it comes to sports bras, Primé has a couple different Lululemon styles she wears on rotation, noting that the brand’s bras offer great support without digging in anywhere. “On their website, you can shop by size, activity and level of support,” she shares, which is helpful when it comes to finding the perfect option for your needs. One of the brand’s bestsellers is the Lululemon Align Reversible Bra, a versatile, perfect-for-yoga bra that’s reversible (two styles for the cost of one!) and made from the same Nulu material as the brand’s Align Pant.
Like a Cloud Bra ($68; lululemon.com)
The other bestselling sports bra is the Like a Cloud Bra, a super-chic sports bra made for low-impact activity that’s comfortable enough to wear all day long.
Athleta is one of the most beloved activewear brands on the market, particularly when it comes to high performance yet super-chic pieces. “They provide high-quality, sustainable, versatile and stylish products for women and girls of all shapes and sizes,” shares Veronica Pome’e, a professional model and Athleta ambassador. Whether you’re looking for your next everyday legging (like the Salutation Stash Pocket II 7/8 Tight — our pick for best overall leggings — and the Salutation Stash Pocket II 5-Inch Short) or the perfect sports bra (we’re big fans of the Exhale Bra in Powervita), the brand specializes in simple yet gorgeous pieces that work really well, whether you’re having a sweat sesh or just strutting around the city.
Something else Pome’e loves about Athleta? “I feel like they really prioritize plus-size bodies through inclusive 1X through 3X sizing — something that other major fitness apparel brands don’t do well,” she shares. “When I shop in-store at Athleta, I don’t have to go to a separate section to find my size — all products that fit me are included on the same racks as the straight-size products, and I don’t feel limited to a smaller selection.” The brand frequently offers petite and tall styles as well.
Elation Tight ($89; athleta.gap.com)
Pome’e’s fitness must-haves include the Elation Tight, a super-soft, high-waisted legging made from Athleta’s fan-fave, second-skin-like Powervita fabric, in addition to the Solace Bra ($49; athleta.gap.com) which is made from that same Powervita fabric, and the Kinetic Waist Bag ($55; athleta.gap.com), a sleek, practical fanny pack perfect for gym runs or running errands.
Point Reyes Bomber ($158; athleta.gap.com)
We’d be remiss not to mention some of the more casual athleisure Athleta creates, which is all high quality and super comfortable, not to mention adorable. Outerwear like the brand’s Point Reyes Bomber is an instant go-to for rainy days or day hikes alike.
Cabo Linen Jogger ($79; athleta.gap.com)
The Cabo Linen Jogger is a warm-weather staple that you’ll find yourself gravitating to all day, every day.
Topanga Jumpsuit ($129; athleta.gap.com)
And, of course, rompers or jumpsuits like the Topanga Jumpsuit are perfect for lounging, traveling, working from home and everything in between.
Girlfriend Collective is a brand that prioritizes slow fashion — which means investing time and energy — to produce clothing that’s more ethical and easier on the planet. Take the Compressive High-Rise Legging, for example, Girlfriend’s signature legging that’s made from 25 recycled water bottles. And though many synthetic fabrics (like nylon and polyester) are made from plastic, Girlfriend chooses materials “that would otherwise clog landfills and threaten wildlife.” But you’re not sacrificing quality when you shop at Girlfriend. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
The brand is a favorite of Fried’s, who loves Girlfriend Collective for its high-quality activewear that’s cute and versatile enough for hanging out and running around the city. “Leggings tend to wear down quickly, so it’s worth spending the extra money on higher-quality fabrics that last,” shares Fried. Similarly, “sports bras also play a huge role in your workout experience as a woman,” she says, “so it’s always worth spending a little more on something supportive.”
The Compressive High-Rise Legging ($68; girlfriend.com)
The Compressive High-Rise Legging and Paloma Bra are some of the most inexpensive options on this list, which makes their super-high-quality feel that much more impressive. The Compressive High-Rise Leggings really do some incredible work when it comes to lifting your backside. They’re also extremely high-waisted, which is great if you don’t want to worry about pulling up your leggings during a workout.
Paloma Bra ($38; girlfriend.com)
Both the leggings and the Paloma Bra are sweat-resistant and comfortable in warmer environments, though they’re not the most lightweight, which we actually prefer for everyday wear. The Paloma Bra is fairly long as well, so if you’re buying these two pieces together — which we highly recommend, since everyone will be asking where you got your adorable set — your whole stomach won’t be exposed. Another interesting element is the lack of visible branding; there are no loud logos on the back of the leggings, which many might find refreshing.
The best part is the customization that’s available, both in terms of fit and style. The Paloma Bra and the Compressive High-Rise Legging are available from sizes XXS to 6XL, with the additional option of choosing from three inseam lengths on the leggings. When it comes to colors, there’s absolutely something for everyone. One of our favorite elements of Girlfriend’s better-for-the-planet philosophy is exemplified in the ReGirlfriend program, which encourages customers to send in old Compressive bras, leggings and shorts for a $15 store credit. Girlfriend then recycles the old materials into new ones, which helps close the loop on creating more waste. So maybe there isn’t too much harm in ordering a piece in every single color?
Outdoor Voices is a brand that has completely embraced all things athleisure as a lifestyle. It stresses the idea of “freeing fitness from performance” and believes activity can be a part of anyone’s everyday life — and its activewear reflects that.
“By living in New York City, I automatically live a more active lifestyle,” shares Pome’e. “Simply walking to the train to get to my workout or meeting up with friends is a workout on its own.” So she looks for products that transition easily from working out to hanging out.
Exercise Dress ($100; outdoorvoices.com)
“You can jazz up any athleisure ‘fit with a pop of color and some accessories to transition from the gym to brunch, or whatever is on your agenda for the day.” One of our favorite pieces for doing just that? Outdoor Voices’ Exercise Dress, which we’ve written about in-depth before. In many ways, it exemplifies everything that Outdoor Voices has nailed as an activewear brand: It’s super versatile, great for activity that intertwines with your everyday life (like hiking, jogging, walking with friends or biking) and brings something playful, simple and unique to the activewear space.
Zoom 7/8 Leggings ($98; outdoorvoices.com)
In true Outdoor Voices fashion, it’s not just about performance — it’s about comfortable, functional pieces that work with whatever your lifestyle is. In terms of more traditional workout gear, the brand’s head-turning Zoom 7/8 Leggings are perfect for sweaty, high-impact exercise. They’re super compressive, they’re sweat-wicking and they feature two deep phone pockets that will keep your essentials in place while you’re active.
Hudson 2.5-Inch Short ($58; outdoorvoices.com)
Another must-have product for runners? Outdoor Voices’ Hudson 2.5-Inch Short. They’re made from a lightweight, quick-drying fabric and sport a couple small pockets, built-in liner and a super-comfy knit waistband.
Doing Things Bra ($58; outdoorvoices.com)
We’re also big fans of the brand’s Doing Things Bra, a bestselling medium-impact bra with a unique mesh racerback design that makes for a super-comfortable and supportive fit.