Not all that long ago, gym gear meant a baggy cotton T-shirt and a pair of old tracky bottoms.
But fabrics are now so technical your leggings can apparently do everything from creating infrared energy to vibrating to correct your yoga pose.
Big brands spend millions on researching ever more advanced fabrics to shave milliseconds off elite athletes’ times. And eventually, that all reaches the High Street.
Rachel Carlyle tested a selection of the latest technically advanced leggings that promise to boost workouts
‘Compression fabrics, for example, can increase your blood flow by 1 per cent to 2 per cent’ says Dr Colin Crosby, a consultant in sports medicine and medical director at BMI Hendon Hospital in North London.
Here I try out some of the latest offerings.
Wearable X Nadi X, £190, wearablex.com
These ‘smart leggings’ are designed to coach you towards better yoga form: they have sensors at the ankles, knees and hips that vibrate when you need to focus on those areas.
This is monitored through a detachable ‘pulse’ device, which clips on to the back of the leggings. Simply charge it up using a USB cord, connect it to the Nadi X app on your phone via Bluetooth and you’re off.
Rachel said Wearable X Nadi X (pictured) are eye-wateringly expensive, but comfortable and high quality
Each time you move into a new pose, if your posture needs correcting, a part of your leg vibrates (and yes, the sensation is as weird as it sounds). However, it’s not always clear what changes you need to make. I pitied anyone walking past my window as I grappled with Warrior pose.
The leggings are comfortable and high quality, but do go for a size up. They’re also eye-wateringly expensive, so you’d have to be pretty keen on yoga to splash out.
However, I did have fun perfecting the poses and have used them several times since. 4/5
Bam Enduro Bamboo Deep Waistband Leggings, £49, bambooclothing.co.uk
Rachel said she would take Bam Enduro Bamboo Deep Waistband Leggings (pictured) on holiday or wear in the street
Bamboo is nature’s performance fabric: it is three times more absorbent than cotton and naturally wicks away sweat from your skin.
It also blocks 98 per cent of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays and is naturally anti-bacterial.
I tested these on a 7km run. They weren’t as supportive as the others I tried, but the fabric felt cool and breathable, which meant my legs didn’t overheat.
I wished they’d had a pocket and a drawcord, but they didn’t slip.
These were the leggings I’d take on holiday (if I could) or wear in the street. 4/5
LAYERS OF LYCRA
Lululemon Wunder Train High-Rise Tight 25”, £88, lululemon.co.uk
Rachel said Lululemon Wunder Train High-Rise Tight 25” (pictured) are supportive and the fabric dries within ten minutes
Lululemon’s in-house fabric research team recently launched its latest high-tech material, Everlux, which has not the usual two but five layers of Lycra and wicking yarns to pull sweat away from your body.
It’s designed for high-intensity exercise, so I tested these with two back-to-back online workouts alongside my teenage children: a Joe Wicks PE lesson, and then a 30-minute session from YouTuber Chloe Ting’s ‘Shred Challenge’.
These leggings are supportive rather than highly breathable, so my legs got hot — but the fabric was dry within ten minutes.
Of all the leggings I tried, these were by far the most comfortable, with the waist a perfect (high) height, a drawcord and a card-sized pocket.
There’s just one catch: at the moment, they come only in three-quarter length. 5/5
FOR OLDER MUSCLES
Zone3 Women’s RX3 Medical Grade Compression Tights, £70, zone3.com
Rachel said Zone3 Women’s RX3 Medical Grade Compression Tights (pictured) are particularly good for those who suffer with calf pain
These leggings, from wetsuit specialists Zone3, are a favourite of the ultra-marathon crowd. You feel you’ve completed a workout just getting them past your knees. But once on, they don’t budge.
A combination of compression fabrics supports hips and knees while increasing blood flow and reducing lactic acid build-up. They’re particularly good for those who suffer with calf pain: bonded tape is used to support the soleus muscle, running from the heel to just below the knee — a major source of injury.
Tested by scientists at Loughborough University, they’re for serious athletes. 5/5