The Best Plus Size Leggings for Every Body
From fit to fabric, here’s what you need to know before you buy.
Let’s be clear about plus size leggings: They’re just regular leggings, right? That means they need to have the same technical innovations and the same color and print options that the rest of leggings do. So why is shopping for plus size workout leggings so damn hard?
When it comes to plus size activewear, the market has clearly been underserved. But things are changing (slowly), due in part to consumer demand. According to a study by The NPD Group, two-thirds of U.S. females consider themselves to be a special size, and one-third identifies as plus-size. And these women are sick of only wearing black, ill-fitting leggings.
The other part of the equation comes down to money. In 2019, the global plus size women’s activewear market stood at $178.56 billion. Read that number again. It’s a crazy amount of money. So brands are taking note and (finally) designing plus size workout leggings that combine fashion and function.
But not so fast. With more and more plus size leggings becoming available, there’s definitely a mix of good, bad and ugly. We’ve broken down the best of the best plus size workout leggings so you can shop confidently. Read more below.
First thing’s first: The fit has gotta be right. If the waistband is rolling over or the seaming is wonky, it doesn’t matter how great the graphic print looks. If the leggings don’t fit, you’re not going to wear them. And then, of course, what’s the point?
“My most common complaint with plus size workout leggings is finding a pair that fits my waist and legs,” says fashion blogger and athlete Dawn Ellerbe. “I need a little give in the quad area and something more snug in the waist. As a plus-size woman, I’m always wearing out the crotch and thigh area.”
When it comes to plus size activewear, a key part of fit comes down to details. “Look for a wide, soft waistband that will be comfortable but not too loose,” says wardrobe stylist and personal shopper Zoe Hennessey. “I appreciate a thoughtfully-positioned seam or print that tricks the eye into seeing a longer, leaner line. And a pocket big enough to hold my phone is always amazing.”
Ellerbe says she looks for a wide waistband, too (they tend not to roll down as much). She also tries to avoid hard elastic that can cut into her skin or waist. “Since plus size women often have larger bellies, I take into consideration what brands really call ‘high-waist leggings,’” she says. “As bodies get bigger, shapes begin to differ.”
Be careful about the label “high-rise” and make sure you buy your best plus size leggings from a brand that understands that bigger bodies need different designs (not just larger sizes).
Fabric makes a huge difference, both in terms of hand-feel, comfort and durability. “I like a softer, flexible legging that allows for easy movement,” says Ellerbe. “Leggings are such a staple in my wardrobe. And since I wear them not only to the gym, but also running errands, on dates and lounging around the house, they have to be comfortable.”
Even if you’re not working out at the gym but you’re still working up a sweat, there are some things to consider. “Printed plus size workout leggings are great because they don’t show sweat marks,” says Hennessy. “And sweat-wicking fabric is always super important when exercising.”
Ellerbe agrees: “Moisture-wicking always. The best plus size leggings fit like a second skin, hug my waist and have room in the crotch area without drooping down.”
As for colorways, you can’t go wrong with black. But within that color, the best plus size leggings offer both metallic and matte fabrics, as well as subtle prints. But you should also shop for your personality. Ellerbe says she loves leggings in fun colors and patterns: “I feel so good when I’m working out and all these smaller women keep coming up to ask me about my gear.”
If you’re wearing plus size leggings at home (as opposed to working out in them), Hennessy recommends soft, cozy styles. “Pick something that works great under sweaters and sweatshirts,” she says. “I love fabrics that suck everything in but don’t feel overly constricting. You can dress them up or down.”
Layering is key when it comes to plus size leggings. Think about a black legging with a denim jacket and boots. Hennessey does hers with an oversized wool trench and chunky cable knit sweater. You can also extend the life of your summer shorts collection by popping a legging underneath them.
And don’t underestimate the power of the best plus size workout leggings. “Cute, well-fitting leggings have the power to elevate your mood,” says Hennessey. “Clothes are miraculous that way.”
“From the time when I first started in sports in the 90s, I've longed for workout gear other than a baggy shirt and sweats,” says Ellerbe. “Like anything else, when you look good, you feel good and perform a little better. Not having to tug or adjust during workouts allows me to focus on my technique, form and progress.”
Ready to fit your fit?