The Best Workout Clothes for Women and Men – Sports Illustrated

The Best Workout Clothes for Women and Men  Sports Illustrated

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Clothing doesn’t make the workout, but it can certainly make the workout more comfortable. In some cases, what you wear can enhance performance by reducing fatigue and preventing chafing. Workout clothes should be appropriate for the sport or activity, be moisture wicking and keep you warm or cool, depending on the season.

The best workout clothes also fit your personal comfort level. That may mean offering high compression or being loose and flowing, depending on the workout and weather. Today’s workout clothes go well beyond sweatpants and hoodies (though we like both) into highly specialized activewear that includes bike shorts, sports bras, leggings, joggers and bike shorts designed for comfort and performance. Put down that cotton T-shirt because we’ve put together a list of the best workout clothes for men and women of different body types and activity levels.

Our Picks for the Best Workout Clothes:

Key features:

  • Materials: Polyester, spandex
  • Sizes available: XXS-XXL

Alphalete is among the activewear brands that combine quality with performance in its garments. The Alphalete Surface Limitless Bra is a medium-support bra, which makes it appropriate for weightlifting, yoga and Pilates-type activities. The Limitless bra balances comfort and support with an attractive, strappy design. Adjustable straps also let you get a better fit, while the fabric wicks moisture and enhances breathability. This bra comes in 11 colors and patterns and seven sizes. However, it’s not designed for high-impact activities like running.


  • Stretchy yet supportive material
  • Sweat-wicking fabric
  • Comes in fun colors and patterns


  • Not ideal for high-impact sports and activities

Key features:

  • Materials: Polyester, spandex
  • Sizes available: XXS-XXL

Get ready for supportive leggings for high-impact (and high-intensity) activities with the Alphalete Surface Power Leggings. These 27-inch inseam workout leggings feature a cross waistband that hits around the belly button in the front but rises higher in the back. These leggings feature a polyester/spandex blend fabric that wicks moisture while offering gentle compression. They come in seven colors, including standard black, making them a staple piece that will work for any type of workout.


  • Attractive cross waistband design
  • Stretchy and supportive fabric
  • Excellent moisture wicking


  • No pockets

Key features:

  • Materials: Cotton, polyester
  • Sizes available: XS-XXL

The Alphalete Classic Crew is a long sleeve sweatshirt that’s perfect for getting to and from the gym warm and ready to work out. This sweatshirt features a dropped shoulder, back shoulder seam and banded waistline add a touch of style. A double-breasted polyester fleece makes the inside super soft, while the exterior has a spongy feel.

It comes in seven colors and seven sizes. The only downside is that it might be too warm for the summer months. However, it’s the kind of workout gear that becomes a staple to an exercise wardrobe.


  • Soft, warm fleece fabric
  • Dropped shoulder and back seam styling
  • Seven color options


  • Too warm for summer months

Key features:

  • Materials: Nylon, elastane
  • Sizes available: XS-XXXL

The Infinity Speed Short 5.5” is Alphalete’s basic workout short for men. It’s made of durable nylon with a high percentage of elastane to give the flexibility for a custom fit while maintaining the short’s shape. These quick-drying shorts are comfortable enough for casual wear but durable enough for intense workouts.

The Infinity Speeds feature a jacquard waistband that flexes and moves with the body. That waistband also includes an inner flat drawstring to secure them during vigorous workouts. The Infinity Speed Shorts come in 11 colors and seven sizes and have reflective elements on the side.


  • Quick drying fabric
  • Inner drawstring on the waistband
  • Reflective elements


  • Only come in one length

Key features:

  • Materials: Nylon, elastane
  • Sizes available: Zero to 14

Lululemon’s buttery soft leggings are comfortable and lightweight. The Aligns are made of Nulu, a nylon/elastane blend with four-way stretch, high breathability and excellent sweat-wicking properties. The high-rise waistband’s inner pocket has room for keys or ID, too.

The Align line of leggings comes in many variations and lengths, so you’re bound to find one that works for your comfort preferences and workouts. Keep in mind that Align is meant for yoga and similar workouts. Running and other high-impact activities may require a legging with more support and compression.


  • Super soft, stretchy fabric
  • Inner storage pocket
  • Many variations to choose from


  • Not designed for high-impact activities

Key features:

  • Materials: Polyester
  • Sizes available: XS-4XL

Under Armour’s Vital Woven Pants are an all-purpose wardrobe staple perfect for a quick pickup game or a strength-training session. The polyester material wicks sweat and looks sleek at the same time. We like the seven-inch ankle zippers that make them easy to get on and off.

We like that the Vital Woven Pants come in a wide range of sizes and include a tall option. They have a loose cut for a full range of motion and a more comfortable fit. An internal drawstring in the waistbands keeps them in place. On the downside, some users on found that they can shrink in the dryer.


  • Sweat and wind resistant
  • Seven-inch ankle zippers
  • Loose fit with internal drawstring


  • May shrink in the dryer

Key features:

  • Materials: Nylon, elastane
  • Sizes available: 32B-42DDD

The All Powered Up Training Bra stands out from the crowd for a few reasons. One of the most prominent is the wide range of sizes, from a 32B to a 42DDD, with options for cup sizes up to G. The nylon/elastane blend fabric wicks sweat and features an adjustable crossback strap design. There are also three hook levels on the band to offer some adjustability. This bra is comfy enough that we wish it were also able to take on high-impact activities, like HIIT or running.


  • Offers a wide range of band and cup sizes
  • Adjustable, crossback straps and an adjustable band
  • Moisture wicking


  • Not for high-impact activities

Key features:

  • Materials: Mesh, rubber, EVA foam
  • Sizes available: Five to 12

Hoka takes running shoes to a new, amply cushioned place. The Cliftons are designed for everyday runs and daily wear, making them a great option for transitioning from around town to the gym. They feature a rocker to guide your foot through your natural gait, along with plenty of Hoka’s signature cushioning.

A breathable mesh upper and rubber-gusseted tongue coupled create a comfortable fit while letting your feet breathe. We love that they come in 14 color combinations, from bright to neutral. However, there are reviewers on that report that the heel fabric can wear quickly.


  • Excellent cushioning
  • Transition well from everyday wear to the gym
  • Excellent breathability
  • Rocker to guide your foot through your natural gait


  • Can wear through the heel fabric

Key features:

  • Materials: Recycled plastic and polyester, rubber, mesh
  • Sizes available: Six to 13

The Adidas Ultraboost 22 Training Shoes offer excellent energy return and are an eco-friendly running shoe. They’re made of recycled plastic and polyester, along with more standard materials like foam and rubber. A BOOST midsole made of tiny capsules provides impressive energy return, which can reduce fatigue.

Adidas LEP, a stability system, in the outsole gives the shoes added stability without adding weight. Overall, they’re a fast shoe that works for daily training. However, one reviewer on was less than thrilled with their long distance performance. “I got the shoes hoping they would be good half marathon shoes, but I was wrong. Good for runs 10 miles and under.” Longer-distance runners might not get the cushioning and foot support they need.


  • Partially made of recycled materials
  • Midsole offers good energy return
  • Strong stability without added weight


  • May not have the support for longer runs

How to Choose the Best Workout Clothes for You

Consider the following attributes when choosing the best workout clothes for you. 


Workout clothes can be loose, tight or somewhere in between. Loose gym clothes leave you with free range of motion and space for ventilation. Some people are also more comfortable in workout clothes that are less form fitting. However, clothing that’s too loose can increase chafing because the fabric rides up into high friction areas. Additionally, loose, woven fabrics may not stretch as much as you need to comfortably move through Pilates or yoga poses.

Fitted, tight or snug clothing has its place, too. Yoga, for example, often works better with tight yoga pants because the pants move with your body without getting in the way of poses. Tight, stretchy clothing can also prevent skin-on-skin chafing when running. However, a bra band or short waistband that’s too small may dig into the skin and chafe as much as loose clothing. Some people aren’t comfortable in tight clothing because it makes them feel self-conscious.


Style comes down to cut, colors and other design features. The cut should flatter your body type without restricting range of motion. For example, you may need to consider whether a racerback, U-back or cross back tank or sports bra will work best for your workout style.

Workout clothes can easily reflect your personal style. Sweaty Betty, Girlfriend Collective, Alo Yoga and many of the brands on our best of list make matching tops and bottoms that make you look put together. Don’t get too hung up on style, but paying a little attention to the silhouette can boost your confidence.


Before you buy, think about what you need the clothes to do and the features that will complement your workout style. Features like compression level, reflective trims and pockets can make working out easier and improve performance.

Compression reduces muscle movement, which can make you feel less fatigued. But you might not need much compression if your workouts are usually low impact. Reflective trims keep you visible to oncoming traffic. Pockets won’t make you run faster, but they can hold your phone, which plays your music, tracks your running apps and keeps your running cadence on track. Moisture-wicking materials and reinforced seams can also provide peace of mind, letting you focus on performance.

Side pockets, long or short sleeve shirts and squat-proof fabrics are just a few extras that could make your break your workout clothes. Don’t get caught up in trendy sportswear unless it has extras that will truly improve your workout experience. Reflective logos and seams, for example, improve safety for runners. While a workout tank with a hidden pocket could give you a convenient place to stash your key.

How We Chose the Best Workout Clothes

Our search for the best workout clothes started with customer and independent reviews. We then researched the style, fabrics and design elements to make our final picks. Specially, we looked for:

  • Fabrics: High-performance, sweat-wicking and durable fabrics made of nylon, polyester and some form of elastane (sometimes called Lycra or spandex). These fabrics are durable, breathable and prevent heat and moisture build-up.
  • Cut: Both loose and tight clothing have their place in the workout world. We’ve included both on our list because of personal preference.
  • Style: Today’s workout clothing lets you make a statement. We included both foundational garments for everyday workouts and those that could give your workouts a little something special. If you’re going to work out, you might as well look good doing it


Should I wear loose or tight clothes at the gym?

Wear loose clothing if you prefer free range of motion and extra ventilation. Wear tight clothes to prevent chafing and wear your clothing like a second skin. If you prefer a little more coverage, loose clothes with a layer of tight clothing underneath is always an option.

What should I not wear to the gym?

Don’t wear street clothes to the gym. Street clothes may prevent you from pushing yourself and could rub or chafe.

Alphalete, Athleta and Lululemon are popular fitness clothing brands. Footwear brands also make good workout clothes, like Nike, Adidas and Brooks.

Do I need to splurge on workout clothes?

You don’t need to spend a fortune on workout clothes. For the men, a breathable pair of running shorts or pants with a moisture-wicking shirt or tank top is usually enough. For women, leggings, shorts and a shirt or tank top is also a good place to start. However, ladies should also add a high-quality, well-fit sports bra in the support level that you find most comfortable.

Final Thoughts

Workout clothes should let you focus on your lifts, run or poses. They can fit your personal style and body type. But most importantly, they should move with you and leave you with full range of motion. Whether you pick shorts or pants, crop top or T-shirt, your workout clothes should enhance your workout by either giving you a boost in performance or simply a dose of extra confidence.

Prices are accurate and items in stock as of publish time.