Comfortable enough for daily wear, sleek enough to be fashion essentials, and versatile enough for office attire, casual events, and formal occasions - leggings are a must-have in your wardrobe. But not all leggings are made equal. They come in a variety of sizes, styles, fabrics, and lengths.
So, what types of leggings should you buy? Nylon leggings or cotton ones, printed leggings or disco leggings, animal prints, or neutral tones? Knowing the different types of leggings that are available can help you decide.
Since leggings have ruled the fashion world for years now, I think they are here to stay. I’ve written this ultimate guide on leggings based on legging length, legging style, and legging material.
I’m also going to tell you how to choose leggings for a good fit. My goal is to help you wear leggings to make you feel comfortable and look stylish.
Types of Leggings: What’s Available Out There?
Based on length and cut
Ankle-length leggings are also called full-length leggings. They typically extend to the ankles or just above the ankles. This makes them ideal for the winter season.
They’re pretty versatile, and you can wear them with heels, flats, boots, or sneakers. In particular, it’s easy to wear them with boots because they're skin stretched.
You can pair ankle-length leggings with anything, including tanks, t-shirts, tunics, and sports bras. Wearing leggings that go to the ankles can give you a sleek look, just like skinny jeans.
These types of leggings can create an illusion of long legs, making you look taller than you are. So, while they’re great for any body shape, they are a particularly great choice if you have short legs.
Ankle leg leggings can be smart enough to replace formal pants, for instance, if you choose leather leggings or faux leather leggings and some nice accessories and a jacket or blazer.
But that’s not all - ankle-length leggings in fabrics like cotton are extremely comfortable and suitable for everyday use. You can also find some pretty unusual ones, such as flared leggings or ripped leggings, if you want to create an eye-catching, stylish look.
Check out the KFT High-Ly Recommended Leggings for a great selection of ankle-length leggings.
Knee-length leggings hit the knees or end just below the knees. They are also called short leggings and are available in a range of fabrics such as cotton, nylon, and Spandex.
These types of leggings are a popular choice as athletic leggings. They are a comfortable fit for yoga, pilates, gym, dancing, and Zumba.
Knee-length leggings are also great for outdoor activities like hiking in warm weather. However, they may not be suitable for cooler weather because of the incomplete leg coverage.
In terms of styling, it can look odd if you wear heels with knee-length leggings. They go best with t-shirts and running shoes for a casual look.
Mid-calf length leggings end somewhere between the knees and the ankles. They are also called three-fourth length, capri leggings, or cropped leggings.
Mid-calf leggings are very versatile. They look great with heels, flats, and sneakers, and they pair well with both short tops and long shirts. However, because these types of leggings don’t cover the whole legs, they are not suitable for use in cold weather.
Some people wear them like underwear for an extra layer under regular pants.
Footed leggings end in socks. You can think of them as leggings and socks combined. They cover the entire legs and feet. These leggings are generally worn with ballerina flats, but they can also be worn with boots and high heels.
Stirrup leggings extend to the ankles and have a loop that goes below the heel of the foot. They are great for dancing and ballet.
If you want a pair of leggings that do not ride up during movements and looks graceful, stirrup types are definitely worth a look.
Based on fabric
The best thing about cotton leggings is that they are very soft and super comfortable. This is a lightweight fabric that’s great for warm or humid weather.
However, there are some downsides to cotton leggings:
Cotton can stretch over time and lose its shape, giving a dimpling effect. That’s why many cotton leggings combine fibers like Spandex so that they hold their shape during gym work and are comfortable for daily wear.
The other problem with cotton leggings is that if you sweat a lot, the leggings can hold water and stay damp.
My advice: buy cotton leggings in blended fabrics.
Also, when you choose colored leggings in cotton, go for darker colors so that sweat doesn’t show as much.
2. Wool leggings
If you live in a place with cold weather, wool leggings are ideal.
This is a good fabric because it traps air and creates a layer of insulation to hold in warmth, just like fleece.
The main disadvantage of wool leggings is they can be pretty pricey.
Polyester is water-resistant and wicks sweat, so these types of leggings are a great choice for workouts.
The downside is that polyester leggings can get smelly pretty quickly. You can overcome this problem by picking a pair of leggings in a polyester blend. Also, be sure to wash them out after every use.
Almost every pair of leggings designed to be worn during an exercise regime has at least some percentage of Spandex in it (this material is also called elastane or Lycra).
The main reason is that Spandex is stretchy and body-fitting, which makes it ideal for working out. But while it is commonly added to many different fabrics, Spandex is not so great on its own - it can get sticky and un-breathable.
One of the most popular legging fabrics, nylon is both lightweight and durable. It is easy-care and does not wrinkle easily. But despite its many benefits, it can shrink.
Also, some ladies feel it is not classy enough to wear on a special occasion.
A blend of 80% nylon and 20% Spandex is an awesome combo of performance and style that gives you the best of both worlds.
This lightweight, stretchy, durable fabric is great for casual wear and athletic wear - a must-have in your closet.
The nylon-Spandex blend fabric is commonly used in compression leggings. These are a type of athletic wear that increase blood flow during exercise. Research has shown that compression leggings improve endurance, enhance performance, and speed up recovery from muscle soreness after exercise.
How To Choose Leggings
Before you go on a shopping spree, stop for a minute and consider some important factors. The first thing you should consider when choosing between different leggings is what you’ll be using the leggings for, i.e., their function.
You have a huge choice of versatile pieces in casual wear leggings, and pretty much anything goes. However, you should buy leggings based on the weather where you live. You don’t want to freeze when you’re out running errands.
Also, if you’re going to wear leggings with short tops or tank tops, a high waistband works well. If your leggings will replace your trousers, choose thicker fabrics that are not see-through. However, if you’re going to wear tights or leggings with dresses or longer tops, sheer materials can work.
For everyday wear, look for jeggings - they are a cross between jeans and leggings. Jeggings are comfortable and can take more wear and tear than leggings. They also have added posterior support, and you can get them in fabrics like denim.
High impact workouts
You need durable leggings in a sweat-wicking material. Look out for leggings that have a small pocket for your keys or phone and reflective strips if you’re going to use them for running or cycling outdoors.
If you’re going to wear your leggings to a yoga class where you’ll be stretching and bending, choose natural fabrics like cotton with a stretchy Spandex blend (that’s what most yoga pants are made from).
Don’t buy leggings that are too tight as they can cut into your skin when you bend and stretch.
When you’re doing deadlifts, squats, and lunges in the gym, comfort is key. Choose sporty leggings in an opaque material that are both flattering and fashionable (you’ll be spending a great deal of time in front of mirrors).
Nylon and Lycra blends are a popular choice. Leggings with a drawstring waist are great if you do both cardio and weightlifting.
The ideal leggings feel like a second skin on your body. They fit snug across the waist, hips, thighs, and calves. The waistband is not so tight that it creates a “muffin top” on your belly.
On the other hand, it is not so loose that you have to keep pulling up the leggings.
While you can choose a loose or snug fit in most other types of leggings, when it comes to workout leggings, always choose a snug fit. You don’t want any extra fabric floating around and getting caught in something at the gym.
A high waist is also advisable, so you don’t have to worry about flashing your assets when you bend over.
The best way to test the fit of different types of leggings is to try them on. Do a few stretches and bends in the trial room and check out what happens.
Does the waistband creep down over your hips when you move? You might need a smaller size.
Are the leggings too tight at the thighs? They may be too small.
If you’re going to wear leggings for athletic activities, you want thoughtful add-ons that make your life easier.
For instance, concealed pockets for your gym membership card or keys, a high waist that provides coverage and does not ride down, machine washable and fast-drying materials, and a figure-sculpting fit that flatters all body shapes.
If you are looking for leggings that will compliment your long tops and make a great outfit, the biggest thing to watch out for is good quality material.
And if you are looking for clothing to wear to the gym, then Elastane (Spandex or Lycra) is your stretchy and durable friend.
People who want to avoid synthetic materials in favor of natural fabrics like cotton, wool, and bamboo should keep in mind that while they are super comfortable, the sweat-wicking capacity of these fabrics is limited.
Whatever style of leggings you choose, remember that too-loose leggings can look sloppy. If you want something loose, choose a pair of slacks or wear skirts or capris.
If you’re going for leggings, a snug fit looks smooth and chic.
How can you tell good quality leggings?
The fabric of the leggings is the most important thing to check in terms of quality. Look for stretch, compression, breathability, and shape retention. Also, check care instructions.
Do leggings stretch out over time?
Yes, leggings can become stretched after multiple washes. They can also shrink. How well your leggings will retain their shape depends on what they’re made of and how you care for them.
To prevent leggings from stretching out, wash them in warm or hot water. Hot water has a shrinking effect and can counteract any stretching that occurs with repeated use.
Should I go by hip or waist measurement for leggings?
I would say waist. If you buy a size too big that is loose on the waist, the leggings are going to be pretty much useless for you.
As long as the fit is snug and comfortable on the waist, a little extra compression or looseness in the thigh and hip area can usually work out okay.
What’s Your Favorite Pair of Leggings?
The types of leggings that we’ve covered in this guide can be a great addition to your wardrobe.
Whether you need them for fitness, hiking, or just because they look so darn good on Instagram, there is something here for everyone!
We hope you found the information helpful and will use it as a starting point when deciding what type of leggings best suit your needs.
We highly recommend checking out our KFT High-ly Recommended Leggings available in 4 solid, vibrant colors. They’re sure to keep you looking and feeling great all day long, especially during your most intense gym days.