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No, you don’t have to spend half your salary on workout tights (sorry PE Nation), you can still find cheapies that work/ hold you in/ look good and more. After many years editing Women’s Health magazine, I know how to spot a slipshod from a show-stopper when it comes to tights. So, I scoured the brands and took five through their paces. Here’s my verdict:
Cotton On Waffle Seamfree 7/8 Tight – $39.99
I basically lived in these tights during a week-long stay at wellness retreat, Kamalaya, in Thailand – the combo of the waffley fabric and chic, on-trend design was just my thing. Actually, the thicker fabric was as soft as a baby’s bum, and while they’re not uber-tight, they still held in all my squishy bits. Even in Thailand’s sticky heat, they withstood my sweat test walking up and down the resort’s thigh-burning hill. Now, I didn’t wear them for a full-blown workout as the heavier fabric wasn’t ideal in the heat, but during a yoga class, they were sweet. The high rise waistband hid my stomach so most body shapes could rock this tight – the style and colours make them quite flattering. Confession: I’ve always been a fan of Cotton On’s stylish tights, and while they’ll never outlive my favourite Lululemon’s (they get a bit saggy in the bum after a year or so of washing) for the price tag it’s a big win.
Best for: Yoga, Pilates, weekend wear, walking and weights.
Not so good for: Working out in the summer heat.
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Nike Women’s Power Essential Tight – Okay, so these are RRP $65 but on a number of sites I found them for under $50 so I had to include them
A big cheer for Nike as they were the only big sports brand which had an ankle-length pair for anything close to 50 bucks. From the moment I pulled these puppies on, I felt as confident as Kim Kardashian at a selfie conference (if there is such a thing). The drawstring waist sat nicely on my hips – no gouging of skin – and Nike’s trademark Dri-Fit fabric was thick enough to hold it all in. I am an OrangeTheory convert, so I wore these for an hour-long session (mostly HIIT training) including a 20 minute run, 10 minute row and 20 minutes of weights. My pet peeve is having to constantly pull-up tights while I’m running, but these didn’t budge a bit. I felt slim and sleek while I moved, lifted and stretched. Who doesn’t love a basic black leggings for this price tag and I’d buy three pairs of these.
Best for: The whole shebang – a HITT session to a yoga class or just mooching around on the weekend.
Not so good for: Women who like their tights on the higher (stomach) side.
ASOS 4505 Neon Colourblock Legging – $50
These retro tights look like they cost a bomb thanks to their chic design, shiny fabric, on-trend fluro colours and mesh detailing so I felt pretty cool walking pass the shredders in a hotel gym in Melbourne. I started with a 10-minute warm-up run on the treadmill, and after pulling them up a few times because they kept slipping down and sagging around my bum, I realised the lightweight fabric was probably more suited for the weights room (while admiring them in the mirror, of course). Back on the spin bike and after a 10 minute all-out, they withheld my sweat test nicely thanks to the ankle mesh panelling, which wasn’t itchy as often they tend to be. When I walked out of the gym and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I thought how impressive these would look on Instagram. Definitely the best tights for rocking your weekend.
Best for: Off-duty occasions when chic athleisure is required plus walking, Pilates and lower intensity training.
Not so good for: Thrashing it out during a HITT workout is not recommended.
Bonds Everyday 3/4 Leggings – $34.95
The fabric! Wow, this pair made me want to crawl into bed, not crank it out at the gym – talk about super soft. These black tights were another staple during my stay at the health retreat, thanks to the comfort factor. From a yoga class, to TRX ropes and to an all-out at the gym, the fabric kept me cool and the tights stayed put. After two days (hey, I couldn’t wash them in Thailand) they did loosen up a bit around my bum and thighs so they didn’t feel as flattering, but for the price it didn’t faze me.
Best for: Having another black pair on hand … just because.
Not so good for: Lasting for years.
Kmart’s Anko Active Leggings – $14
If Kmart can do must-have homewares then surely they can sell must-wear activewear, too. I picked-up these for 14 bucks people – no, that’s not a typo – and was impressed with the simple, tasteful design. I put this pair through a 20-minute walk outdoors, a weights session and 15-minutes on the stationary bike beside my new shredder-friends at that Melbourne hotel. You know what? They were actually pretty comfy and somewhat supportive. Thanks to the thick waistband, they stayed up throughout my walk, and while I didn’t take them for an all-out session, all in all they didn’t bunch around my bum or front bits. Look, the thinnish fabric hugging my calves was a bit scratchy when I started sweating, but somehow the price tag made me more forgiving. For $14, these were worth every cent – makes you wonder whether sinking $114 on a fancy brand is money well spent.
Best for: Who cares for that price!
Not so good for: Anyone who has skin issues. Might be worth trying them on, too, as I’m not sure the cheaper-cut would suit every body shape.
Felicity Harley is whimn’s editor-at-large (follow her on Instagram). After nearly two decades working in – and running – Australia’s leading women’s publications, she now juggles desk life with cleaning-up-after-three-kids life. In her, er, spare time the health and wellness fan drinks coffee, exercises (to stay sane) and cheers the Sydney Swans.