Best Running Tights For Women (2021 Buyer’s Guide]

I don’t know about y’all, but the right pair of running tights can make me feel like a top Olympic athlete, like I can run forever.

There’s just something about getting a brand-new pair or finding that perfect fit that just kicks your motivation notch up a level!

With a ton of options and opinions out there, finding the perfect match for you can feel intimidating.

Never fear — here’s a quick run-down of the tights aisle (pun intended)!

With no further ado, I introduce you to some of the best and most popular running tights on the market.

Popular Tights on the Market

Editor’s Choice

LULULEMON Fast and Free 7/8 Tight

Stylish and streamlined, these tights can take you straight from brunch with your girlfriends to your run to the grocery store.

LULULEMON Fast and Free 7/8 Tight

Brand

In recent years, the very popular yoga leggings brand has really stepped up its game and expanded into other forms of movement.

Running is one of them — yay for us!

Quality

The Lululemon team seriously puts a lot of research into the creation of their fabrics to make quality products specific to the needs of the athlete (or customer, a.k.a. YOU).

You will find the quality superior to many other leggings. 

Known for leggings that make the booty look amazing, the Fast and Free Tights won’t disappoint there.

Tried and Tested

They are also the staple Lululemon running legging, which means they are tried and true! Stylish and streamlined, these tights can take you straight from brunch with your girlfriends to your run to the grocery store.

A great tight for your everyday run!

Specs

  • Material: Nulux and Luxtreme, created by Lululemon
  • Waistband: Mid-rise with a drawcord
  • Length: 7/8 s
  • Suitable for: Mild to hot weather – Spring, Summer, Fall
  • Compression: Light with Luxtreme, but not truly compressive
  • Pockets: YES

Pros

  • Mid-rise to high waist with a drawcord for optimal comfort
  • Available in Nulux fabric (less compressive) and Luxtreme (more compressive) to suit your preferences for a “barely there” feel
  • Several storage pockets cleverly designed to keep you looking svelte
  • Lightweight and best for warm to hot weather
  • More than one pocket

Cons

  • Not appropriate for cold weather
  • More pricey than most Lululemon bottoms AND running tights in general
  • Some fabrications don’t pass the squat test

Best for Summer

Nike Epic Lux Tights

Sporty in appearance and design, The Nike Epic Lux could be a solid standard for your short or long runs… but probably not in the winter.

Nike Epic Lux Tights

Nike is really the O.G. (original gangster) in the running space.

These running leggings prove that! Some of the best running leggings around, the Nike Epic Lux has the coolest ribbed texture which is super light and moisture-wicking, which should keep you moving forward swiftly and easily.

Compression

Plus Nike really adds something special to their fit, feel and compressive technology — you won’t want to take these babies off!

Additionally, they are designed with runners’ needs in mind to include ample pocket space to stow necessities.

Length

If you’re — say 5 foot 7 inches or taller — you’ll find that they are 7/8s in length which may be more of a capri length.

Sporty in appearance and design, The Nike Epic Lux could be a solid standard for your short or long runs… but probably not in the winter.

Specs

  • Material: Dri-FIT, created by Nike
  • Waistband: Mid-rise with drawcord
  • Length: 7/8s
  • Suitable for: Cool weather, warm weather, and hot weather approved – Spring, Summer, Fall
  • Compression: NO
  • Pockets: YES

Pros

  • Updated fabric and fit to provide ultimate range of motion, breathability, and comfort — feel like a second skin
  • ⅞ length won’t bunch at ankles
  • Slightly higher waist keeps your shirt from riding and cold breezes out
  • More than one pocket for storing a few important items
  • Fit is true-to-size

Cons

  • Taller runners may prefer a full length tight
  • Not suitable for cold weather

Best for Layering

New Balance Premium Impact Tights

A great option for runners that enjoy lightweight compression tights with sweat-wicking technology.

New Balance Premium Impact Tights

New Balance, often touted for their running shoes, delved into running gear and tights which created a complimentary fit.

The New Balance Premium Impact Tights boast functionality at their core!

Sweat Wicking

These should be a great option for runners that enjoy lightweight compression tights with sweat-wicking technology.

However, you might need to travel lightly when wearing these, as they do have less pockets than other options.

Versatile Wear

The most enjoyable feature in these tights is their versatile capabilities — you can wear them alone or with additional tights layered over for more warmth or compression while still being comfortable!

Specs

  • Material: 88% Polyester/12% Spandex
  • Waistband: Mid-rise with drawcord
  • Length: 7/8s
  • Suitable for: All temperatures — Cool to warm weather and even cold temps as a base layer
  • Compression: NO
  • Pockets: Some

Pros

  • Polyester Blend specifically created to keep you dry and comfortable
  • Versatile for all temperatures — moisture wicking, mesh panels for breathability, and they would be a great base layer for cold temps
  • Mid-rise with drawcord, ⅞ length and true to size with a lived in feel
  • Reflective graphics for visibility
  • Affordable price point

Cons

  • Could be too short for taller runners
  • Limited pocket space

Best Multi-Use

CompressionZ High Waisted Women’s Leggings

Designed by athletes for athletes, you will find they stay in place and hold everything in, supporting your whole body.

CompressionZ High Waisted Women’s Leggings

CompressionZ has absolutely nailed the fit of their High Waisted Women’s Leggings.

In fact, having “leggings” in the title feels like an injustice to these killer running tights

Quality

Don’t let them know this, but I think they’re under-priced for the quality and comfortability — but I might pay the difference!

Designed by athletes for athletes, you will find they stay in place and hold everything in, supporting your whole body.

Fit

You shouldn’t notice any restriction in movement.

For that reason, these tights can be easily transferable between running and any other exercise activity.

Drawbacks to these aren’t too major but… you’ll probably want to size up as the waist runs small and grab a jacket with a pocket or fanny pack since these are pocketless.

Colors

Regardless, with the variety of colors and patterns available, multi-use legging-style cut, plus compression benefits, the question with these is more so, “how many pairs will you get?”

Specs

  • Material: Spandex
  • Waistband: Mid-rise
  • Length: Full
  • Suitable for: All temperatures – Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter
  • Compression: YES
  • Pockets: NO

Pros

  • Designed for athletes to be comfortable while getting the benefits of compression
  • Excellent entry-level compression tight
  • Stylish, fun patterns and sweat-wicking material
  • Perfect fit for all shapes and sizes
  • Full length for all bodies
  • Affordably priced

Cons

  • Waistband can roll down when sitting or bending
  • Tends to run small around the waist
  • No pocket to store your valuables in

Best for Winter

Gore Wear R3 Women’s Tights

The legging compression and design is specifically created for runners. You will be out running and feeling warm, dry, and amazing in these babies!

Gore Wear R3 Women’s Tights

The Gore Wear R3 tights are a no-excuses running tight.

You will be out running and feeling warm, dry, and amazing in these babies! 

Features

The legging compression and design is specifically created for runners.

Each seam line and the wide waistband are intentionally placed to run along the muscle and joint it supports, leaving you feeling super secure and strong.

Material

These would be perfect to train all winter long in, and prep for that early spring marathon. 

Depending on where you live and run, make sure early May is the latest run you’ll use these for because come June you will be Sweaty Betty in this pair.

Specs

  • Material: Gore, created by Gore Wear
  • Waistband: Lower-rise with drawcord
  • Length: Full
  • Suitable for: Late Fall, Winter, and Early Spring
  • Compression: YES
  • Pockets: YES

Pros

  • Best for serious runners with sweat-wicking technology and built for cold temperatures
  • Definitely compressive to sustain and support you while training
  • Wide waistband and drawcord is adjustable to personalize the fit
  • A hidden pocket to stow your keys
  • Mid-range in price

Cons

  • Can be warm for summer

Brooks Greenlight Tights

These pants got your basics covered — tight fit, comfortable high rise and waistband, and plenty of pockets for keys, cellphones, and the like!

Brooks Greenlight Tights

Brand

No doubt about it, Brooks is all in on running.

Brooks began as a shoe company focused on runners.

Now, it would seem, they are a holistic athletic wear company focused on runners! The Greenlight Tights are stylish and comfortable.

Features

They’ve got your basics covered — tight fit, comfortable high rise and waistband, and plenty of pockets for keys, cellphones, and the like!

If you are a casual runner, this could be a multi-faceted tight to have for runs, other workouts, or trips to the grocery store.

However, if you’re looking for a specialty tight or extra boost for pep in your step — these aren’t for you.

However, they can still be great off the track as a basic legging!

Specs

  • Material: 81% polyester and 19% spandex
  • Waistband: High-waist
  • Length: Full
  • Suitable for: Cool to warm temperatures – Spring, Summer, Fall
  • Compression: NO
  • Pockets: NO

Pros

  • Allows comfortable strides and movement
  • Smartly-placed compartments to hold your necessities
  • Price is budget-friendly

Cons

  • More along the lines of a legging
  • Could be a used as athleisure wear
  • No pocket space

Best for Long Runs

CW-X Women’s Mid Rise Full Length Stabilyx Compression Tights

If you are a serious runner, particularly long distance, ultra-marathon, or trail, this might be the tights for you.

CW-X Women’s Mid Rise Full Length Stabilyx Compression Tights

Specialized CoolMax fabric technology keeps you dry and warm for performance.

The variety of prints and colors accommodates your personality and style. 

Compression Technology

CW-X is well known for their compressive technology and makes an incredible product. Because of the stellar design and craft, the tights run at a much higher cost than many running tights and leggings.

Options

You will also find that CW-X offers men running tights as well and they are often uni-sex which might help meet your needs with price or size.

If you are a serious runner, particularly long distance, ultra-marathon, or trail, this might be the tight for you. 

Specs

  • Material: Coolmax Polyester and Lycra blend
  • Waistband: High-waist with drawcord
  • Length: Full
  • Suitable for: Fall, Winter, and Spring
  • Compression: YES
  • Pockets: YES

Pros

  • Compression that supports run longevity, performance, and recovery
  • Reflective logos for nighttime runs
  • Flat seams and breathable material to prevent chafing
  • Thick material for cold weather support

Cons

  • Very high price point
  • Wash care is high maintenance

Best For Recovery

Zensah Recovery Tights

If you experience a lot of fatigue and soreness through your legs, these might be a luxury item for you.

Zensah Recovery Tights

Design

The seamless design of these compression tights sets them apart from others.

Made in Italy, the Polyamide and Elastane blend make them an incredible compression legging, but challenging to get on and off.

Fit

This can prove extra tough because they tend to run small — if you go the Zensah route, size up!

If you experience a lot of fatigue and soreness through your legs, these might be a luxury item for you.

Additionally, if you tend to be injury prone or have chronic joint issues, the Zensah tight could be a fabulous, more protective choice.

Specs

  • Material: Nylon blend, created by Zensah
  • Waistband: Lower-rise
  • Length: Full
  • Suitable for: All temperatures
  • Compression: YES
  • Pockets: NO

Pros

  • Hip-to-ankle compression technology that targets and supports muscles and joint alignment
  • Reflective details for increased safety
  • Extremely comfortable with full range of motion
  • Seamless, light-weight, and fitted to stay in place
  • Proven to help with healing and lactic acid flushing

Cons

  • Priced higher than other tights
  • Runs small
  • Takes more work to get them on

Columbia Heavyweight II Tight

If you live in a climate that is cold for a lot of the year, the Columbia Women’s Heavyweight II should be a great staple.

Columbia Heavyweight II Tight

Columbia does a great job with winter weather wear.

You will find these tights excel in that category.

Features

They offer compression support and can be a great base layer for extra warmth.

These are generally warmer than most other compression tights and leggings — think more along the lines of long underwear.

If you live in a climate that is cold for a lot of the year, the Columbia Women’s Heavyweight II should be a great staple.

Specs

  • Material: 100% Polyester
  • Waistband: Mid-rise
  • Length: Full
  • Suitable for: Winter
  • Compression: YES
  • Pockets: NO

Pros

  • Created for movement with 4-way stretch
  • Perfect compression layer for super cold weather
  • Available in mid- and heavyweight

Cons

  • More of a thermal layer than a running tight
  • Outdoor activity specific, not runner specific

Determine the Right Pair of Pants

Woman Running In The City
Woman Running In The City

Let’s kick it off with some basics and important criteria to consider. As you glance through these, I encourage you to consider what YOUR individual needs are in the short and long term.

The best running tights are the ones that fit you perfectly in both function and form. Especially as your training and distances increase, there should be less room for error concerning your gear’s fit and performance.

The Battle Between Leggings and Tights 

Could you get by with your usual generic gym leggings? Maybe.

Are running tights and running leggings really all that different?

The simple answer is YES.

If you’re training for longer runs or races, the benefits of specialized, sweat wicking tights are definitely worth the investment.

Running tights differ from leggings primarily because of the materials used, the form, and the function.

Unlike leggings, they’re more breathable, durable, muscle-supporting, and chafe-less. 

Decisions, Decisions… Running Tights vs. Leggings 

Running Tights

  • Tight fit to support muscles
  • Seamless and sweat-wicking to reduce chafing
  • High-quality material to protect against the elements and manage body temperature

Leggings

  • Soft and stretchy for everyday comfort

Must-Have Features

Now that we’ve determined running tights are THE best choice for your training, it’s time to move into the unique features that help determine which pair is right for you!

Through my own trials and tribulations with running tights, I present to you a few features that I’ve found most relevant in the selection process. 

Finding the Perfect Fit

Person Stretching in a Forest
Person Stretching in a Forest

Making sure you’re wearing the appropriate size running tights is majorly important.

The best size and fit will ensure that they don’t constrict your stride (or straight up fall down a mile in!).

To select the right size, first and foremost, you’ll need to make sure they feel comfortable when you try them on.

If they’re not tolerable in your dressing room, how might they feel when you’re actually hitting the pavement or trail? 

How Tight is Too Tight

That said, and as the name suggests, they should fit tight — no gaps around your waist or ankles.

Tights are meant to provide some compression and stabilization for your muscles on the run. They need to be a little compressive, which may be an adjustment if you’re making the transition from leggings.

If they’re falling down, that could be the byproduct of either too large or too small of a fit — be judicious and honest with yourself about which issue is coming up for you. 

How Low Can You Go?

The last piece of fit is the rise. There are options for high-waisted or mid-rise running leggings.

What you choose is entirely dependent on your preferences!

Personally, I prefer the high-rise.

The high-waisted tights feel like a snug hug for my hips and glutes — no fear of slippage. Plus, they tend to give you an hourglass shape!

Tights That Wick & Warm 

You will find most running leggings contain a limited amount of cotton in their mix to ensure a good fit, but there are other benefits too.

Usually, they are crafted from Rayon or Spandex blends to promote sweat-wicking and temperature control.

Some tights are even made of fabric blends specific for hot or cold weather.

The less cotton present in the tights, the warmer they’ll be as temperatures drop.

Depending on where you live, this can be an important factor!

The sweat-wicking nature of the materials is part one of a thoughtful plan to minimize chafing. Most tights also boast seamless or flatlock seams to eliminate chafing altogether! 

PRO TIP

When trying on options, do a few squats and lunges in the leggings. Are they high enough on your waist? Are they quality material to avoid transparency with movement? Find a pair that won’t show off too much of your assets! 

Dress for Your Comfort

Woman in Red Tights Doing Dynamic Stretching
Woman in Red Tights Doing Dynamic Stretching

As mentioned about the fit, your running tights should be tight but comfortable.

The last thing you want to be thinking about during your run is how uncomfortable your tights are or how self-conscious you feel.

What you wear with your tights and making sure you feel confident in them is the most important part of owning tights.

Don’t Let Layers Slow You Down

If you are competitive at all, or maybe just looking to create more ease on your run, I guarantee you won’t want to wear too many layers over your tights.

I’m sure you’ll find that you wish you’d never worn anything else but running tights your whole life, because the aerodynamic benefits should be immediately clear.

Wear What Makes You Confident

The rest of your running gear is all about how you like your clothes to move with you on your run and how you feel comfortable when out and about.

Wear a tunic top or longer jacket for more coverage. Go commando or don’t! If you prefer undergarments, I recommend finding seamless athletic hipsters like these from Under Armour: Womens Hipster.

Compression: Cool Breeze, Tight Squeeze (But Not the Shivers) 

Don’t know about compression? Well, buckle up — compression tights are the king of running tights. 

Running is perhaps the first fitness activity to really embrace the compression technology — and for good reason.

Compression Tights?

Compression tights offer a very snug fit that supports muscles in motion.

Generally, the fabric is sewn into the pant in a way that follows the muscle fibers and their actions.

Intended to hold you tight in all the right places (quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves — ooh la la!), compression supports the muscles around your joints and bones which aids in injury prevention and quicker recovery time. 

Effects of Compression Tights

Runner Taking a Break
Runner Taking a Break

Think of leggings compression like an Ace Wrap* for your entire lower half.

On that note, additional special attributes are that compression helps blood circulate more efficiently, pulls lactic acid out of the area, and keeps muscles warm so your legs continue to swing with ease the entire run.

Say “sayonara” to any excess soreness post-run and “hello” to more days of running!

In addition, the aerodynamic nature of compression tights can boost your running speed because they reduce wind resistance.

PRO TIP

While all this sounds amazing, compression should only be worn for set amounts of time. Not day in and out.

Compression tights are best for running training and brief stints on recovery days.

Nice-to-Haves 

A few other fun features to consider are: at least one pocket and enough visibility features. Obviously, depending on the time of day you run, some reflective details could be a good safety feature.

You might also consider a colorful style to add into the rotation!

And of course, pockets. What girl doesn’t love a well placed pocket?

They’re the best! A packet is very handy to toss your spare house key, ID and phone into.

Faves for My Babes 

Based on the tights I’ve tried on myself, my research findings, and opinions from other runners, here are the tights I’d suggest most: 

Editor’s Choice: Lululemon Fast and Free Tights

The thoughtfulness that Lululemon has given to these running leggings make them extra special for runners who want to find a compression that suits performance, and a fit that makes them feel confident in appearance.

While the price can be a bit daunting, the special tailoring for runners’ needs and women’s bodies is worth it in my opinion.

Best material, technology, and cut for runs as well as day-to-day comfort.

Runner-Up: Nike Epic Lux Tights

Nike crushes it with these, like they usually do.

These running leggings are a good all-around, day-to-day tight that is unobtrusive and gets the job done.

Best Value: CompressionZ High Waisted Women’s Legging

With the CompressionZ quality, expertise in compression, and style options, you simply cannot beat this price for what you get!

Have room for more in your closet?

Best for Winter: Gore Wear R3

Best for Summer: Epic Lux

Best for the Long Runs: CW-X Women’s Stabilyx Tights 

Best for Layering: New Balance Premium Impact Tights

Best for Recovery: Zensah Recovery Tights

Best Multi-Use: CompressionZ Leggings 

Best for Fashion: Lululemon Fast and Free Tights 

To Cross the Finish Line

Fit, comfort, material, and compression amongst other features are all important factors that could affect your run and enjoyment on the path or pavement.

For me, I’m always going to stick to the Nike Tights.

Without a doubt, best running experience.

I run year-long and often, I find myself squeezing a run in when I can. I am ready to go all day in these.

The fit, feel, and style with the lightweight, sweat wick, mid-grade compression make this set the most well-rounded choice. 

Find The Best For You

Nonetheless, the information I’ve provided definitely considers the control element – specs of the tights.

I can recommend tights all day but in the end YOU are unique.

The best running leggings are the ones that are best for YOU — one that supports your run and makes you feel like a rockstar!

Look Back on the Review

As you go to find YOUR best running leggings, I’d consider the factors we’ve run through (pun intended, again!).

But I’d also make sure to think through the frequency and duration of your runs to determine how much compression you actually need, all the activities you’d like to wear the tights for, personal style and fit preferences, and your budget.

In the end, you’ll want your attire to suit your needs and comfort so you can crush it like Nike! 

Happy running!

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Steph Boll
Steph Boll
Founder of Spikes & Heels. I'm on a mission to show the reality of women's fitness. Red faces, blotchy skin and sweaty hair is my everyday look and I'm proud of it! 😅