The world’s recent obsession with athleisure has led to a proliferation of pricier and presumably better-made workout wear. There are now so many athletic wear brands to choose from that it can quickly feel overwhelming, leading us to retreat to the standby old T-shirts and shorts we’ve worn ragged since high school. But everything counts when you’re trying to ace your workout, especially what you’re wearing.
Put simply, different styles and materials can make or break what you accomplish during any given workout, but it’s less clear if paying a bit more for your clothes will also lead to better results. As such, I collected pieces from the most popular pricier-than-average brands on the market right now and gave them all a shot at the gym, on the running path, and in a handful of classes. It quickly became clear to me that investing in your workout wear is not a bad idea (the nicer materials and design technology make a world of difference), but which brand you should go for largely depends on your exercise of choice. And if you're not up for spending more on every item, bottoms should be your top priority, as they take the hardest beating.
Scroll down to find out which exercise brands you should spend a little extra money on based on your preferred workout!
Vimmia Solstice Strength Pant ($106)
Vimmia’s loose, breathable T-shirt was ideal for a yoga class, as it allowed for lots of movement without the slightly constricting feel of tighter tops. And, unlike some options, it wasn’t so baggy that it became a nuisance. The cropped leggings also struck the perfect balance for such flexibility-required exercise, feeling like a second skin in the leg portion but loosening up a bit at the waistline so breathing was never impaired.
Nike 3” Modern Embossed Tempo Running Shorts ($40)
Nike’s shorts were some of the best I’ve ever tried for my preferred exercise: running. The built-in briefs allowed me to feel comfortable and covered up even in windier moments, and the Dri-Fit fabric is a true game changer when it comes to wicking away the copious sweat that comes with cardio.
Cynthia Rowley Fitness Black Mesh Combo Tee ($88)
Cynthia Rowley Fitness Drawstring Sport Short ($98)
Cynthia Rowley’s new fitness line offers the most fashion-forward workout wear of the bunch, but because it’s so stylish and less formfitting, it’s best for lighter workouts, like a gym circuit. The breathable mesh tee and comfy shorts were perfect for a day of light weights and a brief go on the elliptical, followed by a post-workout brunch with a friend that I happily didn’t have to change for.
Live the Process Coral Palms Asymmetric Legging Crop ($135)
Live the Process’s cropped leggings made for the ideal Spin class bottom, as they’re long enough to prevent chafing on the inner leg yet not so long as to feel restrictive while you cycle. The slightly higher waist also appeases any belly-related concerns that can pop up when you’re leaning over your bike in the seated position.
Outdoor Voices 3/4 Two-Tone Warmup Leggings in Dove & Slate ($85)
Outdoor Voices’s three-quarter–length leggings were perfect for one of my outdoor runs in a chillier climate, thanks to compression fabric, which makes them feel like a second skin. While some leggings can hinder your stride, these allowed for total flexibility mid-run and during stretching afterward. Not to mention the colorways are some of my fave!
Sweaty Betty Cruise Retreat Shorts ($87)
Although Sweaty Betty’s tank may look like a Hanes, it’s made with a much more comfortable polyester blend that is better at wicking away sweat and surviving regular washes without falling apart. The cute cruise shorts received the most compliments and were best for a lighter gym circuit that involved weights and the elliptical.
Lululemon High Times Pant ($88)
Lululemon has become a very common choice for workout wear over the last few years, and my experience with its tank and leggings only leant support to that trend. The all-sport tank lived up to its name—it felt right for weights, running, and a boxing lesson—while the leggings were ideal for a gym circuit, a yoga class, and, I must admit, a day of running errands. What more do you need?
Do you have a favorite athletic wear brand? Sound off in the comments!