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- Wearing the right workout clothing helps keep you cool, comfortable, and prevents chafing.
- The best apparel should use performance materials, feature a smart design, and have a versatile style.
- We recommend Nike‘s activewear for women overall, as it’s the best blend of price, performance, and variety.
Even though all of us own workout clothes, it’s rare to come across a top or shorts that you truly love. But comfortable, well-fitting women’s workout clothes can make or break your motivation to go for a run, hit the gym, even just take your dog for a walk. And if that workout clothing is flattering and makes you feel good, well, that’s just the holy grail.
Well-designed workout clothes for women should be made of technical fabrics that wick sweat away, dry quickly, and potentially provide a slight compression to help your body feel supported. It should also be well-designed so that nothing rides up or falls down, and it doesn’t make you chafe.
As a fitness editor for nearly a decade and a woman, I’ve not only tried a lot of women’s activewear brands but I also know the struggle of finding workout clothes that actually fit your body correctly. Whether you’re looking for cheap workout clothes to just get you to the gym, athletic wear that looks flattering in photos, or simply the best place to buy a new pair of shorts for the summer, I’ve got you covered.
Below, I’ve ranked the best workout brands to shop based on my personal testing, as well as input from the countless women I quiz about the athletic wear they’re wearing. The brands featured here all hit the sweet spot of price for the quality and offer inclusive sizing and fits.
The best places to shop for women’s workout clothes:
- Best overall: Nike
- Best on a budget: Core 10
- Best for runners: Athleta
- Best worth-the-splurge: Lululemon
- Best sustainable: Girlfriend Collective
- Best plus-size brand: Superhero Fit
- Best for the outdoors: Title Nine
- Best looking: Outdoor Voices
Nike caters to pretty much every sport with a variety of inclusive styles, making it our top pick for high-performance workout gear.
Size range: XS-3X, short and tall
Nike has the best balance of price, performance, and variety in its workout gear. A pair of leggings can go for upwards of $70, but you can find plenty of $40-$60 options, and the site semi-frequently offers discounts. Nike items also have a good price-per-wear breakdown thanks to an expert handle on performance engineering and technical materials across categories.
There’s something for athletes of pretty much every sport: running, golf, soccer, training, tennis, basketball, softball, skateboarding, swim, and lacrosse — and all different types of gear, from women’s running shoes to swimwear and compression layers. And they’ve expanded their activewear to have more inclusive sizes (from XS to 3X) and styles (for example, high-performance hijab options). That being said, its sizing can be hard to nail down, especially for sports bras that notoriously run small. –Mara Leighton
What to buy
The best budget workout clothes for women
Amazon’s Core 10 makes workout gear that is comfortable, sweat-wicking, and well-designed for around $25 per item.
Size range: XS-XXL; some styles go up to 3X
Good budget workout gear is incredibly hard to find. While we love the price point, size range, and accessibility of brands like Old Navy Active, performance fabrics and thoughtful design features like light compression and phone pockets will make your workouts far more comfortable, especially if you’re just starting out.
We really like Core 10, one of the uber-popular Amazon-owned fitness brands that makes surprisingly reliable workout gear. In our experience, its bike shorts stay put on runs and do a good job of wicking away sweat. The company makes everything from yoga pants to running capris to sports bras to workout tanks, all usually between $18 and $35. You can even customize your own leggings, choosing the waistband, length, style and color. The brand also just partnered with Reebok to make an exclusive line with the fitness giant.
The fabrics, obviously, aren’t going to compete with the quality of the higher-end leggings or tops. But to supplement your workout closet with a few cheaper pieces or get you into something until you see if your new running hobby is here to stay, Core 10 has you covered.
What to buy
The best women’s workout clothes for runners
Athleta’s running apparel is comfortable, moisture-wicking, reasonably priced, and comes in a wide range of sizes and styles to fit different body types.
Size range: XXS-3X
Among all the running brands on the market, Athleta is our top pick because it nails the sweet spot of price and quality and has a huge range of offerings for runners. When it comes to its running gear, we love that nearly all the tops and bottoms are moisture-wicking and lightweight to keep you flying through your miles.
Its gear is well-designed too, so the majority of the shorts don’t fall down or ride up, and reasonably priced, with most tops falling between $40-50 and shorts $50-60 (its leggings and sports bras are on the pricier end at $70-100 and $50-60, respectively).
In addition to price and quality, we love the fit of Athleta’s clothing. For starters, the brand offers a wide range of sizes on 70% of its portfolio, from XXS to 3X, and plans to offer extended sizing across all categories by the end of 2022.
What’s more, everything tends to run at least one size bigger compared to how other athletic brands are sized, which is refreshing in a world of sizing that makes you feel bad about yourself. Overall, this fosters a more positive and body-inclusive running community.
What to buy
The best workout clothes for women that’s worth-the-splurge
Lululemon gear fits well and flatters most figures, performs for all types of workouts, and holds up through many washes, making it worth the splurge.
Size range: 0-20
You don’t have to drop tons of money to get a good workout in, but, if you choose the right brand, smartly investing in $100+ leggings or $60 workout shorts can deliver not only more luxurious and comfortable fabric but also more nuanced and thoughtful designs that make your workout (or errands) more comfortable. Lululemon is the apex of that worth-the-splurge market.
People from our team have tried tons of different items from Lululemon, and I have personally worn an array of tops, bottoms, bras, jackets, even scrunchies from the brand (the perks of seven years as a fitness writer).
For starters, all its gear just looks higher quality and more put together, which is a priority for some people. But moreover, everything is pretty well designed and stays put whether you’re moving through a yoga flow or hitting box jumps at CrossFit.
Its leggings and shorts come with small nice-to-haves like phone and key pockets, strategically-placed reflective features for dark runs, and, most notably, adjustable ties on the inside of the waistband so you can synch the bottoms tighter for a more flattering fit and comfortable workout. Most of my leggings and tops from the brand have been washed dozens and dozens (and dozens) of times and still have a rich color and sleek look (although the Align leggings notoriously pill inside the thighs).
To top it off, its cuts and styles are very flattering for pretty much every figure (although everything fits small so the sizing is frustrating for most women).
What to buy
The best sustainable workout clothes for women
Girlfriend Collective’s workout clothing is thoughtfully designed with buttery-soft fabric for a wide range of sizes, and everything from its fabrics to its packaging is mostly or 100% recycled materials.
Size range: XXS-XXXL
The cult-brand Girlfriend Collective is one of our favorite women’s workout brands, and they just so happen to be sustainably made. Let’s start with the fact that the brand designs its activewear to fit a huge range of body types and its leggings and sports bras are beloved by everyone from a size small to a size XXXL for their comfort and cuteness.
Then, the brand uses recycled materials for everything, most often post-consumer water bottles that have been turned into soft, recycled yarn, but also sometimes the factory-floor scraps of that fabric.
Mostly though, we love Girlfriend collective because of its minimalist approach to its designs, offering all the basics, but designed near-perfect and in a range of coordinated colors. Its classic leggings are actually the perfect pair: high-waisted, slightly compressive, squat-proof, and made with super soft fabric crafted from 25 recycled post-consumer plastic bottles (79% recycled polyester).
Its low-impact sports bras are made from the same recycled polyester (from 11 bottles), while they probably won’t support you through box jumps and jump rope, they are cut with a wide rib band so you can wear the set sans shirt to rock that uber-cute monochrome kit look during yoga, hikes, weight-lifting days, or just running out for coffee.
The brand also makes bike shorts, fun (and functional) unitards, and a bunch of loungewear like joggers and fleeces, all of which are made from mostly or entirely recycled materials. The activewear runs on the pricier side (although still cheaper than a lot of its competitors) but you’re paying for higher quality and better sustainability practices.
What to buy
The best plus-size workout clothes for women
Superhero Fit uses soft fabrics, flat-lock seams for minimal chafing, and specifically designs its apparel to support and move with sizes Large and up.
Size range: L-7XL
Despite the fact that the average woman is a size 16 or 18 (XL-2X), it is incredibly difficult to find many options for great workout gear above a size 12, let alone, say, a size 24, which is when the fashion industry ventures into “plus-size” or “extended sizing.” However, there are a few plus-size athletic apparel brands that excel at what they do.
One of the newer darlings on the block is Superhero Fit, a brand of high-quality, sweat-wicking activewear designed specifically for people sizes L thru 7X. It doesn’t have a huge selection, but the brand makes one awesome sports bra, one legging, one Capri, and one bike short, each in a variety of colorways (and the option to go monochrome, which we love).
Each piece of activewear is designed using ultra-soft, sweat-wicking, quick-dry fabric with slight compression, strategic gusseting for mobility, and flat-lock seams to minimize chafing. The sports bra supports medium-high impact activities.
When we talked with a group of plus-size outdoor adventurers on what gear they can’t live without, multiple women said they’re obsessed with how comfortable and supportive Superhero Fit is.
What to buy
The best outdoorsy workout clothes for women
When you need technical fabrics with UPF, merino wool, and abrasion resistance, Title Nine has some of the best clothes to move in without breaking the bank.
Size range: XS-XL, 4-12
Finding technical clothing that actually fits American female bodies is one of the biggest gripes in the outdoor industry. Title Nine makes outdoor gear specifically designed for hips, booties, and any curves you’re rocking.
What’s more, it has every type of outdoorsy woman covered, whether you like to hike in super technical pants with a ton of pockets, or you prefer form-fitting leggings; whether you like your adventure gear to be loose and breezy or more curve-hugging and flattering.
All of its gear is designed to hit that sweet spot of fashion and function. Its hiking shorts are the perfect length to flatter and prevent chafe, and they hold up against the elements; its sun shirts are quick-dry, offer UPF 50, and come in an array of necklines in case you want something a little showier; and the brand even makes girly gear like sweat-wicking, move-with-your-body dresses, skirts, skorts, and rompers.
To top it off, its prices are in a reasonable category considering not only the technical fabrics and thoughtful features used in the designs, but also the sky-high prices across competitors in the outdoor apparel industry.
What to buy
The best-looking workout clothes for women
Outdoor Voices is The Brand for Instagram-worthy workout sets, and the quality and fit of its activewear make it well-worth the buy.
Size range: XS to XL, sometimes XXS thru XXXL
Perhaps the original Instagram darling, Outdoor Voices is well known for its flattering designs, bright colors, and matching workout sets. Its leggings, shorts, sports bras, and tops are all made from high-quality, sweat-wicking material that keeps you cool and comfortable everywhere from the gym to a hike to running errands.
What really sets Outdoor Voices apart from competitors are its on-trend colorways (this season is full of pale lemon and bright pink) and its flattering fits. The best-selling Hudson shorts, for example, are high-waisted and cut in a way that lifts and flatters your booty. Its shorts never cut in at the waist or give you chafing between the thighs. Its best-selling Doing Things Bra has a super comfortable rib band, flattering scoop neck, and a stylish back to help provide medium support.
Perhaps the most noteworthy option among OV’s collection is its cult Exercise Dress (I own three colors), which has a lightweight, onesie spandex under layer and with a looser overlay so you can run, jump, play, and sweat without worrying about anything falling out, all while looking ridiculously cute.
The brand isn’t the most size-inclusive with the majority of its line only running from XS to XL. But if that is your size, we love that you can mix and match OV pieces to create eye-catching, monochrome kits.