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What’s the best fabric for Gym leggings?

Fabric can make or break leggings.

Here is a list of the best fabrics for leggings you should consider when purchasing your next (or first) tights.

These materials are strong, stretchy, comfortable, and suitable for all skin types.

Above all, we have mentioned fabrics for every weather.

So, you know, no matter what you need, it is there in this guide to the best materials for leggings.

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Hiking with hiking leggings in winter
Leggings with good fabric will keep you warm even in the cold winter months

Table of Contents

What material are most leggings made of?

Leggings made for different purposes use different materials.

The most common fabrics include nylon, polyester, spandex, polyamide (Nylon™), and cotton. For those meant to be worn during winter, materials used for leggings include fleece and wool.

Since not all fabrics work best in all conditions, it is best to consider the properties of the materials used for leggings before buying them.

Below are some important insights to keep in mind.


Cotton is the fabric used for leggings that are best worn indoors or occasionally when you are out to pick up groceries.

Tights made using this material are breathable and soft. Cotton leggings don’t feel too stuffy either.

They are easy to wash, tumble dry, and care for.

However, there are two drawbacks to cotton fabric for leggings.

It is not stretchable, and since it can absorb water, they are not good for those who sweat a lot or wet weather.

Polyester and Polyamide (Nylon™)

Polyester and polyamide are the best materials for workout leggings.

The former is lightweight and economical, while the latter is strong and durable.Nylon™ is very similar to Polyamide.  It originally was the trade name for Polyamide by DuPont. We talk more about the specifics of Nylon™ in a seperate section below.

Both are synthetic fabrics for leggings, thus are moisture-, sun-, and abrasion-resistant, but at varying degrees.

They are purposely made to absorb (not retain) moisture.

This moisture-wicking property makes them a practical choice for leggings you want to wear during intense workouts. Both materials for leggings are stretchable.

Texture-wise, polyamide tends to be softer and more flexible, while polyester retains dye and is recyclable.

Together, they offer the best of both worlds, making the best material for leggings (see next).

Polyester Microfiber 

Microfiber is a synthetic fabric for leggings that is a composition of polyester and polyamide (Nylon™).

The fibers in this material for leggings are split into fine, porous strands that dry quickly.

While polyester offers a comfy towel structure, polyamide adds density, durability, and absorption.

In short, polyester microfiber is a material for leggings that is durable, soft, and absorbent, making it perfect for all kinds of (intense) workouts and even sports.

Hiking with hiking leggings in the snow
Pick a pair of water-resistant leggings when you go hiking in the snow

Lycra, Spandex, and Elastane

Spandex is synonymous with elastane fiber, while Lycra is a DuPont product for spandex.

In short, all three names address the same fabric, which is known for being form-fitting, stretchable, and durable.

The flexibility makes it among the best fabrics used for leggings.

It stretches up to 500%, providing complete freedom of movement. Secondly, it works well with other fabrics like nylon, cotton, and wool.


Nylon™ boasts exceptional durability and resistance against UV rays, mildew, moisture retention, wrinkling, and abrasion.

It is the best fabric for leggings meant for sports, workouts, running, and hiking.

The resilience of the material makes it a stretchy fabric that allows easy movement. There are a variety of Nylon fabrics – the most popular ones are Nylon 66 and Nylon 6.

The only downsides to the material are that it can be prone to pilling, is not recyclable, and can absorb oil and grease.

Merino wool

As the name suggests, it is a cool-climate fabric and a popular material for leggings to wear in cold weather.

However, unlike wool, merino wool also works as a sweat-wicking fabric to wear in warm weather.

It is thinner and softer, making it a comfortable choice for leggings material.

Several athleisure and activewear use merino wool (mostly blended with polyester) for its all-weather properties.

The only drawback of this material is that it is expensive.


More than a fabric for leggings, GORE-TEX is a membrane that prevents liquids and vapor from passing through.

It means it is the ideal material for leggings that you will wear in harsh weather conditions.

The material also bonds with a plethora of other materials and is used to craft hats, socks, ski jackets, and even bags.

In addition to being waterproof, GORE-TEX leggings are also windproof and yet breathable.

Read Also:

Best waterproof and water-resistant leggings

The fabric is extremely durable, maintaining resilience in adverse conditions.

Baleaf Fleece lined Hiking Leggings Material
Baleaf’s fleece-lined leggings are made of 87% polyester and 13% spandex

What’s the best fabric for leggings?  

Picking the right material for leggings is vital to make sure your experience is comfortable and free of any kinds of wardrobe malfunctions.

Here is a rough idea of what the best fabric for leggings will be, depending on the conditions in which you are going to use the pair.

Cotton: best fabric for leggings meant for indoor use

When worn to lounge around, you do not need stretchy fabric but a material that is soft, breathable, and cozy.

And that is exactly what cotton is!

However, make sure the tights are not 100% cotton, because that will not retain shape.

Pick the pair crafted with cotton blended with other stretchy materials such as spandex.

Nylon, spandex, polyester: best material for leggings meant for workout

These are the stretchy fabrics – the fabrics used for leggings that are geared for use when you hit the gym, a hiking trail, or a running track.

A blend of these materials is often used in active wear and athleisure.

Being flexible, they also boast form-fitting ability, which feels like a second skin.

Despite being stretchable, these fabrics for leggings are extremely durable and last long even through rigorous use.  

Wool and fleece: best material used for leggings meant for cold weather

If you are going to work out in cold weather, then wool and fleece fit your need.

Warm and still breathable and lightweight, they trap and retain heat, keeping you cozy.

Is nylon or polyester better for leggings?

Nylon and polyester are both stretchy fabrics with similarities, but also show differences.

For example, nylon fabric for leggings is more durable, abrasion-resistant, and stronger, while polyester is economical, anti-bacterial, and lightweight.

Texture-wise, nylon is softer and more breathable than polyester, because the latter usually have more rigid fibers.

So, if you are looking for resilient leggings to wear during a rigorous workout, then nylon is the fabric to choose from. But if you want leggings for a low-intensity workout and low price, pick polyester.

Squat in leggings
Make sure to check if your leggings are squat-proof if you will be using them in the gym

What is the best material for leggings to not be see-through?

All thick fabrics or performance materials will keep leggings from becoming see-through.

Thicker fabrics are often lined with fleece to avoid transparency.

However, thinking only thick ones prevent unwanted skin-show would be wrong too.

Sometimes, thin materials for leggings like cotton and nylon also ensure opacity if the quality is good.

All those fabrics that are designed to resist wear and tear will be squat-proof with no signs of see-through, no matter how much you stretch them.

What’s the best material for leggings to wear in cold weather

Come winter, wool, merino wool, and fleece become the best materials for leggings.


Wool is a universal choice during the cold months.

While there are several types of wool fabrics for leggings, the ideal one is raw wool.

It makes the perfect warm legging material composition when blended with merino wool (see next).

Because of the crimped structure, wool is naturally elastic and can move with your body.

Merino Wool

Merino Wool is a useful fabric for leggings for insulation, whether you are going to wear them during hiking or high-impact exercises.

A quality pair made of this material will protect you from cold weather and also wick away sweat.

They will keep you warm even if they become soaking wet. They work even in the snow-covered backcountry.

Besides, merino wool is less itchy than low-quality wool and does not have scratchy seams.


Fleece is another popular material for leggings to wear in cold weather.

It is synonymous with a soft texture, and insulation, and is inexpensive. However, out of all three, fleece is the least resilient.

If you love hiking and are looking for the best winter walking leggings, click here.

Best material for hiking leggings

Hiking needs stretchable material, hard-wearing, abrasion-resistant, quick-drying, and breathable. Such fabrics for leggings include merino wool or any four-way stretch material like spandex or nylon.

These are the resilient materials that will protect you from elements like bushes, thorns, and rocks.

Another thing to consider when picking the best material for hiking leggings is how it will affect the weight of the pair.

Lightweight and breathable fabrics like polyester are best when you are going to hike in hot weather conditions, while on cold days, you will need insulating material like wool.

Wet days call for quick-drying materials like nylon, polyester, and merino wool.

The last thing that separates an average material from the best material for hiking leggings is how stretchable (and still squat proof) it is.

While thin fabrics can be stretchy, they tend to become see-through.

Therefore, it is always better to pick leggings made from thick four-way stretch fabric blended with polyester or a small percentage of cotton.

Men Sporting in tights

Best material for workout leggings

Below are some optimal properties that make fabric the best material for workout leggings.

  • At Least Two-Way Stretch – While four-way stretch is ideal, the leggings you wear during a workout should at least expand 65% crosswise and 50% lengthwise.
  • Shape Retention – Pick a fabric for leggings that does not sag when stretched out and recovers shape quickly.
  • Quick Drying – Most materials used for leggings are quick to dry, except cotton, which absorbs moisture. Make sure your pair uses less to no percentage of cotton in its material composition.
  • Breathability – It is a must whether you are picking the best material for workout leggings, hiking, or any other activity. You do not want to feel like you are wearing a plastic bag.
  • 5-15% Lycra Content – Look for a mix of polyester/polyamide and Lycra (Spandex) to ensure sufficient stretchability.
  • Is Weighty – Go for mid-weight instead of light, thin leggings that weigh around 250–300g/m² (7.4–8.9 oz/yd²). You can go a little lower if the material recovers quickly, but we’d recommend never go under 200g/m².

What fabric are yoga pants made of?

Most yoga pants use synthetic materials like polyester or polyester-elastane blend. However, many people have this skin irritation reaction to polyester.

So, it’s worth researching what works best for you. Organic fabrics used for yoga pants include bamboo, which is sustainable, breathable, UV protective, machine washable, opaque, and soft.

The best material for running leggings

The best materials for running leggings are:

  • Nylon for its sweat-wicking, breathable, and super stretchy qualities
  • Polyester because it is durable, lightweight, non-absorbent, UV-resistant, and breathable.
  • Spandex or Lycra for its stretchability and shape retention.
  • Bamboo for being eco-friendly, sweat-wicking, anti-bacterial, and super-soft.
  • Polypropylene for its water-resistant quality.
  • Merino wool fabric for leggings to wear in cold weather.

The best material for sports leggings

The same material used for running leggings works equally well for sports leggings too.

In addition to them, you can also consider GORE-TEX for its ultimate resistance to water and wind. 

The best material for gym leggings

When working out indoors, the best material for leggings would be the one that – in addition to being breathable, stretchy, and durable – is also:

  • Odor-resistant
  • Supportive
  • Fast drying
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Lightweight


This guide to the best material for leggings will help you select the one pair that is your ideal pick.

Whether you are looking at the options weather-wise or performance-wise, this article will provide you all the answers you need to make an informed decision.

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