A Guide to Workout Pants

High-rise or low-rise? Loose fit or medium compression? We break down the details on how to find the right pair of activewear bottoms for your body, your lifestyle, and your workout.

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When it comes to activewear, we often don’t pay it the same attention as the rest of our wardrobe (yes—even we’re guilty of occasionally hitting the gym in an oversized tee and sweatpants). But when you find the perfect pair of leggings? You’d be surprised how much better you perform.

Whether you’re constantly hiking up your pants while running or looking for a versatile go-to that can take you from sun salutation to school drop-off, our guide to the four primary features of workout pants will help you identify what you need in your activewear so you can focus on reaching your fitness goals.

green jogger plus size activewear

Waistbands

Identifying what kind of waistband will adequately keep your pants in place is essential to your comfort. If you’ve ever needed to tug up your leggings during a workout, you’ll benefit from bottoms that have a waistband that moves with you, even through rigorous motion.

A drawstring tie provides a foolproof no-fall solution. Because it’s adjustable, the drawstring reliably keeps pants from sagging and is ideal for activities like running, dancing, or other intensive cardio workouts. Have a workout planned that involves a lot of bending and stretching (think pilates, yoga, or biking)? You may want to skip the drawstring as it can feel restrictive and dig into your waist as you move.

A thin waistband is incredibly comfortable due to the minimal pressure it applies, however, that also means it’s less supportive. If you’re looking to take a leisurely walk or perform other low-impact activities that don’t involve much bounce, a thin waistband should do the trick. Just don’t look to this feature for cardio-intensive or stretching-based workouts, when security in your waistline is essential.

A thick waistband offers much more support and coverage than a thin one. This style will do a good job staying in place during your workouts and doesn’t require you to adjust much. Great for cardio-intensive and stretching-based exercise, this style is a jill-of-all-trades that’s ideal for running, walking, biking, dance, yoga, and pilates.

Finally, when it comes to waistbands, don’t look to a thick one when searching for a comfortable pair to lounge around the house in. A thick waistband can put more pressure on your waist and be less comfortable during longer periods of time.

heathered purple capri legging

Rise

It’s important that your bottoms stay up during your workout. That’s why the rise feature can make or break a pair of leggings. Rise is defined as the distance between the crotch seam and the top of the waistline. Identifying the rise that works best for your body will help you communicate to your stylist what types of bottoms you’d like to receive in your next Dia Active Box.

High-rise bottoms will sit higher up on your body, coming close to or possibly even covering your belly button. These styles offer more coverage, support, and security. They’re great for any activity but especially those where you’re bending and stretching a lot, such as yoga or pilates.

What’s great about a high-rise pant is that it shouldn’t fall down when you’re in a forward fold or upward dog position. It also won’t expose your back or stomach should your top move. It’s also a good option for any workout where you crave a little extra coverage or support. Because you’re generally upright in workouts like running or biking and support is so important there, coverage is likely less important.

Low-rise bottoms are less constraining at the waist and a great option for those lazy Sundays. While they can work well for light activities, they tend not to be preferred for most workouts. This style is ideal for walking, running, or lounging. What’s most important is that they stay up, so if your low-rise pair has a drawstring, they could work well for a cardio-intensive workout. This style tends not to work if you prefer a little extra coverage or support for yoga, pilates, or biking.

 

navy wide leg activewear legging

Silhouette

While silhouettes come and go with trends (yes, even in activewear), you might be surprised to learn that certain silhouettes are ideal for particular activities.

Like with flared jeans, flared leggings get wider at the knee and reach their widest point at the ankle. This style can work for many activities, but be careful. The extra fabric at the ankle can impede your movement in some activities. Yoga, walking, hiking, and other slower activities should be fine in this silhouette. However, don’t try flared leggings for biking. The fabric could get caught in the bike’s spokes or chain. Running can also be tough in this silhouette as the fabric may brush against the opposite leg.

Unlike flared leggings, fitted active leggings have a form-fitting silhouette and don’t offer any extra fabric, making it the ideal silhouette for just about every physical activity.

When the temperatures rise, wearing full-length pants during your workout can leave you unbearably hot, so why not opt for shorts? Great for any activity where you could use a little extra ventilation (hot yoga, anyone?), active shorts are a great option for biking since you don’t have to worry about them getting caught in your bike’s chain. Be careful if you choose to wear shorts while running, though—depending on their length and your body type, your legs may rub together and cause irritating chaffing.

The perfect in-between style, capris are the Goldilocks of pant lengths, keeping you cooler than their full-length counterparts while helping to prevent chaffing. Capris are great for biking or any other activity where you’d want a fitted pant (but cooler silhouette!).

printed activewear capris Day Won

Compression

There are two key levels of compression that can offer a range of support—high and low. High-compression leggings are fitted and offer maximum support. Higher compression means they won’t come out of place easily. Note that this also means they may be harder to put on than a lower compression pair of leggings.

This style is ideal for yoga, pilates, or any kind of movement that may involve inversion. High compression bottoms are also great options for running due to their minimal movement. While you can certainly lounge around the house in this style, you’ll probably be more comfortable in styles with a bit less compression.

Low-compression workout leggings feature a more comfortable and easier-to-put-on-and-take-off fit. They don’t stay as securely in place when your body’s in motion, especially when compared to their high-compression counterparts. This style works for running or hiking, provided your pair includes a drawstring to keep them in place. Otherwise, this is a great style for athleisure and loungewear looks. Avoid yoga or other inversion-focused workouts as your bottoms may move around when you do.

Have you determined the kinds of leggings that you need in your wardrobe? Make sure to let your Dia Stylist know exactly what you’re looking for so that your next Dia Active Box is the best one yet.