Sorry, Boring Sweats—I've Rounded Up the Affordable Gymwear That Rivals Designer

A new year is often synonymous a fresh start, and whether you're a seasoned gym bunny or starting to introduce healthier habits into your daily routine, you're going to need the right clothes to do it in. And trust me, a drawer full of bland, uninspiring workout gear is not going to kick-start your motivation, so one of the best ways to start (and maintain) your fitness journey is a wardrobe of new pieces you'll actually be excited to pull out and wear. It goes without saying that comfort, support, and functionality all come first when it comes to your gym kit, but after you've put in all of that hard work, it doesn't hurt to look and feel your best, too. Plus, who said gymwear was just for exercising? The Who What Wear UK team all agree that gymwear is also the perfect solution to downtime or weekend dressing, too.

When expanding your gym kit, it can be easy to think it necessary to spend hundreds of pounds on a couple of items and feel totally overwhelmed by the tech-laden buzzwords and soaring price tags. But honestly, you don't need to buy fancy, multifaceted leggings or a high-tech sports bra complete with bells and whistles to support an effective workout. Affordable sportswear brands and high-street offerings are getting stronger and stronger, and I've assembled a list of some of the very best affordable activewear brands to shop now. 

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(Image credit: @monikh)

Whether you're into weight training, running marathons, or turning things up a gear in a Spin class, I've thought about all of the women’s gymwear that has what you really need. Think no-sag leggings, supportive sports bras, moisture-control fabrics and the best size ranges to fit every body properly. So grab your water bottle, get ready to work up a sweat, and keep scrolling. These are all of the best athleisure pieces, performance kits, and functional clothing for high-intensity and low-impact workouts (plus a little cold-weather wear for taking on the great outdoors). Let's go, 2023. 

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(Image credit: COURTESY OF H&M)

1. BEST FOR HEAT CONTROL: PANGAIA

Pangaia should top the list for its sustainable credentials alone, as all of its activewear is made from plant-based nylon, but the really clever part is the fabric's moisture-wicking properties designed to help skin breathe and keep you cool—oh, and the very smart addition of natural peppermint oil to combat odour. Goodbye, "gym-kit" smell.

SHOP PANGAIA

2. BEST FOR SUPPORT AND STYLE: SEFI 

Who better to launch an activewear brand than someone who actually knows what you need for peak performance? Enter SEFI, the brainchild of trainer and gym-fluencer Stef Williams. After noticing a gap in the market for activewear that was flattering and wearable for everyday, SEFI specialises in shapes that follow the natural curvature of a woman’s body to ensure maximum support while training. It helps that it looks this good too. 

SHOP SEFI

3. BEST FOR COOLDOWN LOUNGEWEAR: SKIMS

Even fitness-phobes will be familar with Kim Kardashian's Skims, as the brand has given us some of the most flattering (and comfortable) dresses we've worn in an age. However, as those who have worn and reviewed it have pointed out, the brand's best pieces are not in fact the shapewear but the low-key loungewear. Perfect for winding down and cooling off, this body-hugging clothing is made from a stretchy cotton blend that allows your skin to breathe, and the "no-cut" design means they'll never dig in or chafe. 

SHOP SKIMS

4. BEST FOR SIZE RANGE: MARKS AND SPENCER GOODMOVE

Yes, that's right: Not only does M&S know good shoes and accessories, but it's also pretty good at workout clothes. Goodmove is its new activewear collection, designed to fit seamlessly into your busy schedule and covering everything from sports bras with just the right support to "light-as-air" trainers. (And yep, they've got Insolia insoles, so if you haven't experienced them yet, I urge you to.) Best of all, you can find the extensive range of exercise leggings, jackets and tees in sizes 6 to 24 and cup sizes 32A to 42E, so no more having to settle for ill-fitting sportswear.

SHOP GOODMOVE

5. BEST FOR OUTDOOR, SKI AND EXTREME SPORTS: FREE PEOPLE 

If you've only been heading to Free People for its dresses and blouses, you've been missing out on FP Movement, the brand's huge range of activewear for just about every activity you can think of. There are one-pieces to stretch in, performance wear to run in and swimwear to surf in, but its range of fashionable and functional outdoor wear is unmatched. Heading for the slopes? Check out the extensive ski shop, but if you're staying a little closer to home, there are fleeces, gilets, jackets and trainers perfect for winter workouts. 

SHOP FP MOVEMENT

6. BEST FOR FASHION-FORWARD DESIGN: P.E NATION

If your idea of activewear thus far was a baggy, grey tracksuit, allow P.E Nation to change your mind. Think bold, retro style with the functionality of performance gym gear all in one cool little package. If you're in need of activewear that you can wear all day and as part of your weekend uniform, look no further than P.E Nation's fun prints, motivating colours and easy-to-wear pieces, crafted from planet-friendly materials designed to reduce water use and generate less waste. And honestly, any clothing brand that can up the sustainability and style factor is a must for us. 

SHOP P.E NATION

7. BEST FOR PILATES, YOGA, LOW-IMPACT WORKOUTS AND DANCE: HOLLISTER 

If the thought of running, weight lifting and HIIT is a little off-putting, try upping your heart rate with the slow, considered movement and strength building that comes from yoga, Pilates and movement. You're going to need clothing that's as flexible as you are, so Gilly Hicks (Hollister's range of activewear, loungewear and intimates) is a one-stop shop for fluid fitness clothes with fashionable edge. There's everything from seamless shorts and basic leggings to active dresses to dance in and clever layered skorts, all designed with comfort and wellness in mind. 

SHOP GILLY HICKS

8. BEST FOR SPORTS ACCESSORIES: H&M

Is there anything that H&M can't do? No, really. Just when we thought it had mastered versatile basics and outstanding partywear, it upped its accessory game, too. You can now shop everything from ski masks to resistance bands on the H&M site, and for under £30, it's one of the best cost-per-wear options on the high street. 

SHOP H&M

9. BEST FOR PRICE: AMAZON FASHION

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(Image credit: COURTESY OF AMAZON FASHION )

Let's face it we already use Amazon to buy absolutely everything, but if you haven't already browsed their fashion section, you've been missing out. From hidden gems to designer offerings, it's also the perfect destination to shop activewear too. Find everything your gym kit needs like stretch leggings, post-workout fleeces and jersey basics from your favourite brands or try their own line Core 10 that comes in a range of sizes and colours, and for under £50. 

Up Next, Kendall Jenner Just Started a New Legging-Outfit Trend That'll Be Big in 2023

Opening Image: @SEFI

Fashion Editor

Remy Farrell is a London-based shopping editor with nearly 10 years of editorial experience covering fashion, beauty and lifestyle. After graduating with a journalism degree and working on the editorial and fashion teams for titles such as Grazia, Elle, Cosmopolitan and British Vogue, she moved into the luxury e-commerce sector, working as fashion assistant at TheOutnet.com styling for the social media channels and helping to develop the collections for the in-house brand Iris & Ink. After expanding an assisting and styling portfolio that includes shooting talent such as Gigi Hadid, Victoria Beckham and Miquita Oliver, she also branched out into beauty, creating tried-and-tested reviews and diverse beauty content.

In her role as shopping editor at Who What Wear, Remy is interested in discovering new and exciting brands to share with the Who What Wear readership and particularly loves uncovering hidden gems at affordable prices to make shopping accessible to everyone.

Born and raised in Sheffield, Yorkshire, Remy moved to London in 2014 and lives in the Docklands with her partner and pug Billie.