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Leggings vs. Tights: What is the Difference and What do You Need to Know?

Everyone loves getting new workout clothes - it’s a great way to keep yourself engaged, interested and motivated, looking and feeling good while you get in shape.

In your quest to better understand garments for the lower half, you’ve probably come across both leggings and tights – you might wonder what makes these two popular items different.

If it’s time to give your gym wardrobe a boost, you ought to take a closer look at these two important items and know exactly what you’re signing up for. After all, you don’t want to waste money or time by purchasing the wrong thing.

Let’s talk leggings versus tights and everything you need to know to make the best pick.

Basic Differences

What are the main differences between these two garments?

Leggings and tights can look quite similar, especially at a glance. They both are close-fitted, stretchy clothes that cover the full length of the leg and some of the waist.

Tights, however, also cover the feet. Tights tend to be thinner and have a sheer effect (even in the thicker pairs of tights), which looks great paired with skirts and dresses.

This definition can cause a bit of confusion when it comes to footless tights because these tend to fall somewhere between leggings and tights. However, the basic differentiator is that tights are thin, semi-transparent garments, which usually do have “feet.”

Leggings, meanwhile, are footless and usually made of thicker materials. They are still thin, but most leggings don’t have that sheer effect.

Leggings are sometimes worn as an alternative to more conventional pants. You wouldn’t wear tights without at least a tunic top over the top unless you wanted to be displaying your underwear to everyone.

Finally, while a snug fit, leggings are not designed to be as skin-tight as tights are. They do not cling to every part of your legs, feet, and waist but instead offer a shapely look without quite so much adherence to your body.

Can You Exercise in Normal Tights?

While the rules of fashion are always in flux, tights tend to be great for formal occasions.

They can make any outfit look professional, and they come in a whole range of color options.

You can buy tights very cheaply, as well - though it’s worth investing in high-quality, comfortable ones if you will be wearing them a lot.

Tights are very thin, so they are good for staying cool in hot weather if you’ve got some layers up top to stay decent. However, conventional tights will not stand up well to exercise or be particularly comfortable during a heated yoga session.

Conventional tights depend on their stretch to fit your body shape, meaning they don’t have a whole lot more fabric to allow for lunges, squats, or other movements. As they say in the fitness industry, tights are not known to be especially “squat-proof.”

Tights are also usually too thin for the gym or yoga. As mentioned earlier, they tend to be at least somewhat transparent, and if you stretch the fabric, its transparency increases. That means that even if you have a pair that is fairly opaque normally, they won’t look great once you start doing Sun Salutations.

Finally, most tights are just not tough enough for rigorous exercise. You need to wash activewear frequently, and tights may not hold up to that for more than a month or so. Many tights also require gentle wash cycles or have specific washing instructions, which may make it difficult to clean them adequately after a workout session.

Look for Specific Exercise Tights

If you like the look and feel of tights, don’t write them off yet.

Quite a few brands now offer tights specifically designed for exercise, taking the advantages that tights offer and pairing them with the ability to hold up under the stress of stretching and warping with your body.

Tights offer several advantages for exercising, in fact. Because they are so fitted, they can help support your muscles and offer a light compression effect. Many people also like having the feet incorporated into the garment, skipping socks altogether.

Finally, exercise tights usually include moisture-wicking properties and the benefit of keeping the wearer as cool and comfortable as possible.

If you’re looking to do any sort of exercise in tights, make sure they are designed for active use, or you might be in for some uncomfortable chafing, tearing, or other issues.

Leggings for Exercise

Standard leggings are generally easier to exercise in than standard tights, but you might still want to invest in some specifically designed for exercise.

Leggings have quite a bit of stretch in them, so they are much easier if you want to do lunges, stretches, squats, and yoga poses.

They come in a whole range of colors, so they can add a bright “pop” to any exercise wardrobe and keep you motivated and energized with their jazzy prints and hues.

Even cheap leggings will work to exercise in, but it’s advisable to check how transparent they become before you head to the gym in your favorite pair. Test their “worst-case scenario” by wearing light/white underwear and doing squats. You may find that your dark leggings are a lot more transparent than you thought!

Leggings can also be easily washed without special care, and although they are thicker (and therefore a bit warmer), cotton leggings are also breathable and quite comfortable, even during hot yoga or intense cardio.

Fabrics to Look for in Leggings

You don’t have to buy specific leggings if you just fancy doing a bit of yoga at home and you need something comfortable and non-restrictive.

However, if you’re heading to the gym or plan to exercise on a regular basis, it might be worth investing in leggings specially designed for exercise.

These will usually be made of better quality fabric and may have reinforced seams and better crotch stitching. They may also have moisture-wicking properties to keep you cool and dry.

Polyester and other synthetic fabrics are better for sweat-inducing exercise, and they may be more durable and stretchier.

Exercise-tailored leggings are also much less likely to turn see-through when you stretch them, which is pretty important if you want to avoid embarrassment at the gym.

Your favorite leggings from the closet may work just fine for your current exercise routine, but do check them every few months. As the fabric wears thin, it will become more transparent, and you’ll soon be ready for a replacement.

Any leggings in which you can move comfortably will do for exercise. Still, you’ll get a better experience by wearing ones that have been specifically designed for maximum range of motion and comfort.

You may also find that while exercise leggings cost more upfront, they are better designed and more durable so that they will stand up to the constant washing, stretching, and stress involved in exercise.

Buying lots of pairs of cheap leggings could be a false economy situation and is also not a very green approach to take! Go for quality over quantity every time.

How Do I Choose?

The world of exercise wear is quite varied, and there are so many choices. It can be challenging to make the right pick every time, especially if you don’t have much personal experience with the materials and styles.

If you know what sort of exercise you want to pursue, try reading some reviews about clothing specifically for that category. Find out what products are out there, look at the different features, and read customer experiences before making decisions.

However, many people find that this involves too much responsibility -  life is busy, and it can be overwhelming to even start looking at all the ins and outs of exercise gear.

If so, you might find a subscription box useful. At YogaClub, we do the legwork of choosing the best products tailored to your needs, letting you focus 100% on your routine. 

Subscription boxes are a great way to keep mixing up your gym gear without wasting money on poorly-designed products or pouring hours into research.


Investing in the proper activewear can be a game-changer when it comes to your comfort, performance, and the overall enjoyability of your exercise program. You probably won’t stick with the plan for too long if you can’t rely on your gear!

Leggings or tights designed for exercise can make staying active easier and comfier. They can also save you money - the products are more durable and less likely to tear under the stress of squats, yoga, and cardio.

Make your life simpler by choosing a product that is right for the job or simply letting a subscription service choose for you. Learn to love the gym and the yoga studio by upgrading your wardrobe, starting now.



The Best Workout Material to Look for When Buying Activewear | Shape

Gym Clothing and Exercise Motivation | Healthline

Why The 'Best' Decades In Fashion Keep Re-Entering The Trend Cycle | The Zoe Report

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