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(The Gear Loop) - Once you’ve got the kit, running is essentially free and it remains a great way to clear the head, ratchet up the fitness levels and explore the countryside. You can run alone with your thoughts or a podcast, or run with a group. Either way, it's going to do wonders for your mental state and cardio health.

While running kit can be pricey, most of it doubles up as perfect wear for the gym/yoga/pilates and on the street as "athleisure" wear, if you are that way inclined.

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Some runners find you need exceptional (and very toned) pins to look good in a pair of running shorts, and with the multi-use aspect in mind, many women reach for running leggings. 

The explosion in sports wear manufacturers is mind-blowing, and if you (like us) don’t want to go straight for the big names, we've pulled together a few of the best women’s running leggings from brands you might not have heard of. 

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Whether it’s a more sustainable legging from the likes of Presca, or bum-sculpting beauties from Red Run, we’ve collated some of our favourite women’s running leggings, all selected for their ability to perform without shouting about it.

The best women's running leggings

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Contur Bold Move leggings

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For 

  • Made from recycled ocean plastics
  • Targeted sweat-wicking sections
  • Wide colour selection

Against

  • No drawstring at waist
  • Slim fitting so might want to size up

Made in central London from recycled, brushed ECONYL Yarn with a four-way stretch, these leggings look really striking when on and fit amazingly well. 

There’s a handy pocket on the thigh for your phone, card and keys and they’re available in a surprisingly wide choice of colour options. Even if you prefer black, there’s always a splash of detail. 

The fabric offers UV protection and, among an impressive list of properties, promises to dry super-fast, prove resistant to sun cream and chlorine stains, as well as offering “enhanced abrasion resistance". 

They also offer muscle compression, along with targeted sweat-wicking sections, so are arguably the most performance-focussed leggings on the list. Matching crop tops available for style points.

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Red Run Perky Leggings

For 

  • Side and back pockets 
  • Removable drawstring for extra style 
  • Available in petite leg and regular

Against

  • Quite high waisted
  • Only available in mono colours (black and blue)

These stylish and flattering leggings are made with a bum-sculpting fabric that pulls you in, but has enough movement not to hinder out on the trails, with a flattering double-layered waistband for extra tummy support. 

There are side and back pockets for keys and phone/cards, and we love the removable drawstring. The discreet ankle logo is a nice touch, too… no in-your-face branding here. 

There are matching t-shirts, tops and other accessories available making them a great choice for crossover in the gym/yoga studio.

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Presca Conscious Capsule Leggings

For 

  • The world’s first climate-positive running leggings
  • Two handy pockets
  • Drawstring at the waist

Against

  • Lots of seams (though they are flatlock)
  • Lack of compression

These leggings have been designed by runners and triathletes and you can tell by their softness and the lightweight fabric. 

There are quite a few seams, but they are flatlock so remain comfy, and the mesh strips not only look good but also feel great - you can barely tell you’ve got them on. 

Presca’s Conscious Capsule leggings are made from 100 per cent recycled post-consumer waste fabric using a single material, so they can be recycled at end-of-life. 

While Presca concedes any clothing purchase has impact, the company has gone the extra mile to ensure their kit is made at ethical, sustainable manufacturers in Europe and they offset and plant a tree with every purchase. Matching T-shirts and vests available.

Born NouliThe best women's running leggings from alternative brands: product photo 5

Born Nouli Reflective Stars high-waisted 7/8 legging

For 

  • Unbelievably soft
  • Super flattering
  • Reflective stars for night running
  • Multi-use

Against

  • Heavier fabric not great in warmer temperatures
  • No drawstring at waist
  • Wash with care or will sag (but after many years) 

These leggings are among the most comfy we have ever worn, with a four-way stretch to help make your bum look great and a high waistband that both flatters and feels super comfy. 

The stars don’t fade over time and the leggings don’t shrink - if anything they get slightly larger after many washes, but we mean over years not months. 

The quick-drying fabric is desig§ned to block UV rays and wicks moisture , though it is heavier than some other leggings, so not the first choice for a long run in hot weather. 

Born Nouli designs its kit to be worn in the gym and yoga studio, as well as on a SUP and under ski trousers. Comes with matching bra top.

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Falke Core Women 3/4 Tights

For

  • Completely seamless 
  • Knitted to fit body contours
  • Super lightweight

Against

  • Expensive
  • Only black and salmon colour options
  • No drawcord

In our experience, Falke makes reliably good staples and these 3/4 women’s running leggings are no exception to the rule. 

Lightweight and made entirely without seams to minimise any friction in hot weather, these have been fashioned using an innovative knitting technology that reduces the amount of material in the hollows of the knees to stop any wrinkling. 

We’re not all that sure about the extra-wide waistband, but Falke advises either wearing it as is or rolling it down. Handy extras include some reflective elements for night running and an integrated key pocket. 

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What to look for in womens running leggings

Compression and other health-promoting properties

Athletes have been using compression clothing for many years and runners are the top of this list. Why? Because the fabric essentially squeezes and puts pressure on the limbs, which is said to improve circulation (and the transport of oxygen) and reduce lactic acid build-up. 

The theory is that compression leggings help you run further, for longer, and also aid recovery. While researchers can’t actually agree on whether or not this is true, our own testing over many years has concluded compression clothing does help, but you don’t want it too tight. 

Additional new technology claims stimulate fascia, optimise leg movement and even massage tissues and muscles, but whether you want to go all-singing-all-dancing ultimately depends on your wallet. One thing we will say is that compression running leggings sculpt the legs and bum for a sleeker silhouette - and what’s not to like about that?

Seams and waistband

Notorious points for friction, seams in a pair of running tights can cause irritation unless they are flatlock - or you can opt for seamless tights now, too. 

Wide waistbands are generally more comfy and flattering and the addition of a drawstring at the waist is helpful because, however well made running leggings are, unless you hand wash them only occasionally. they can often get baggier over time.

Fabrics

Women’s running leggings come in all different weights depending on weather, from thermal, fleece-lined and water resistant to ultra-lightweight with mesh panels for hotter climes. 

Whatever weight fabric you choose, choose one with fast-drying, wicking properties to ensure no nasty sweat patches appear. Lots of leggings (like the Born Nouli models, above) also come in reflective fabric for night running and dull weather. 

A note on aftercare

Once you’ve bought your snazzy pair of running tights, wash them only when you need (and not after each wear) hanging them out to dry, as the more you wash synthetic kit made with compression technology, the more it is likely to stretch over time. 

When you do wash, make sure it’s at no hotter than 30°C, if possible on a special sports clothing cycle, using a specific liquid for sports kit, such as Ecozone Pro Active Sports Wash, Halo ProActive Sports Wash or Nikwax Basefresh, designed to remove body odours from sportswear. 

Choosing a pair of tights with odour-control or odour-resistant technology, such as silver coating or Polygiene, will help massively with the number of times you need to bung it in the washing machine.  

Writing by Abigail Butcher. Editing by Leon Poultney.