Whether you’re rewarding yourself for sticking to your new year’s fitness resolution or you need inspiration to get your training back on track in time for marathon season, early spring is a great excuse to invest in some new running garb.
What makes a shopping trip even timelier: an increasing number of brands have popped up that emphasise form just as much as they do function.
So it’s time to dump those grey tracksuit bottoms and invest in a figure-flattering pair of tights or a vest that’s just as suitable for the treadmill and trail as it is for that lunch date or post-gym drink. And while some of the sleekest trail-to-catwalk combos bring with them a price tag matched only by their stylishness in magnitude, not all of them will have you smashing the piggy bank right away.
We tested the pieces in London’s parks—frequently braving the rain and cold—and on treadmills in gyms, particularly looking out for how breathable the garments were, how easy it was to move in them, and whether they offered enough support in all the right places.
1. Sweaty Betty Contour Workout Leggings: £55, Sweaty Betty
Sweaty Betty's tights have a reputation for being soft enough to moonlight as pyjamas but these silky-smooth Contour Workout Leggings combine that comfort with even more support and style than previous collections. Unlike some leggings that are so snug they threaten to make you topple over when putting them on, these are breathable, feel almost silky, are sweat-wicking and super easy to slip into. That means that they’re as good for downward dogs as they are for high-impact hill sprints.
2. Fabletics Salar Capri Leggings: £58, Fabletics
This online outfitter, co-founded by actress Kate Hudson, has only been around since 2013 but in that time it's drummed up quite a following. We love it for its constantly changing, quirky prints that complement some of its sleeker, no-nonsense black and navy designs. The material also tends to be thicker than some other brands, while still breathable, so great if you're heading out for a chilly early-morning or late-night trot around the park. This particular model is shin-length and while they felt a little tight around the calves at first, they loosened up quickly as soon as we got moving. The high waist and slightly thicker material around the waistband helps to keep the lower back warm in cooler weather. Fabletics also does excellent discounts for first time buyers, offering whole outfits for just £20.
3. Zakti Shake Up Hoodie: £25, Zakti
It might not be a household name (yet!), but Zakti is one to watch. Established in 2015 in London, the label’s mission is to make the technical beautiful. This Shake Up Hoodie certainly succeeds. Its lightweight, slim-fitting design makes it ideal as a top layer for heading out on chilly days (with the thumbholes helping to keep the cold out), but its cosiness means it’s also great to pull on after you’ve crossed the finish line. It comes in a flattering grey or turquoise and at £25 we think it’s quite a steal.
4. Varley Sycamore Tight: £75, Asos
Think of this ultra-cool brand as Sweaty Betty's more sophisticated sister. While also marrying ultra-soft, sweat-wicking materials with hip prints, the colours and styles are more muted. The blacks, burgundies and navies with mesh panelling make the tights and tanks as wearable in the gym and on the track as they are to date-night, but that doesn't mean they don't encourage you to give it your all. These Sycamore tights passed the chafe test and still looked voguish post-run. Surely that's the ultimate definition of athleisure wear. This design is also relatively high-cut for extra support around the waist, and the mesh panelling means that even though these legging are full-length, they’re fine to use for runs in the milder weather as they’re easy to keep cool in.
5. Salomon Intensity 3/4 Tight: £50, Wiggle
Salomon prides itself on outfitting adventurers and explorers and these tights are testimony to that. They scream function: from the wide waistband, to the muscle-supporting fabric and the mesh behind the knees, every element of them seems to have been carefully designed to help you enhance your performance. They even have slightly grippy strips across the front, which Salomon says are “ideal for hand placement during ascents”. We found them particularly comfortable to wear for longer runs in colder weather. The compressive material helped our muscles warm up quickly.
6. Columbia Whisper Creek Softshell Jacket: £80, Columbia
Although you shouldn’t really have to worry about jackets when shopping for springtime running gear, it’s always a good idea to have something light and waterproof handy when the weather doesn’t play ball. This soft-shell jacket from Columbia is water resistant and sturdy enough to protect you against those April showers, and light enough for you to keep moving. It boasts a draw-cord adjustable hem and plenty of pockets for change, keys and phone.
7. L’Athlete, Hello Sundays Leggings: $89.10 (about £72), L’Athlete
Differentiating yourself in the world of women’s sportswear is no easy feat, so L’Athlete has decided to tap into a growing consumer base with a passion for shopping, and dressing sustainably and organically. The brand’s super soft t-shirts are made from organic bamboo cotton. Some of its other items were once plastic bottles. And while wearing L’Athlete will help even the most enthusiastic tree-hugger sweat with an even cleaner conscious, it’s also highly stylish. These leggings are not expressly designed for running specifically, but the soft material, wide waist band, quick-dry lycra and zips at the back of the leg all mean that they’re certainly suitable for it. They also have a handy concealed inside pocket, to keep a key or credit card safe while out and about. The downside of L’Athlete is that it’s still a relatively new brand, which is only available from retailers outside of the UK for now.
8. Adidas CMMTTD Chill Bra: £44.95, Adidas
We already know that Adidas has the credibility of a decades-old, rock-solid sports label, but in recent years the German brand has also proved that it has the ability to stay fresh by constantly reinventing itself. This season its women’s running line experiments with a marble design that’s both elegant and playful but deeply committed to athleticism. The CMMTTD bra provides excellent support, even for the wildest sprint sessions, without added bulk. The wide shoulder straps are super comfortable while the racer back allowed for full range.
9. ASICS Finish Advantage Tight: £96, ASICS
If you’re a bit of a geek when it comes to knowing the technicals of sports performance gear, then these are the tights for you. ASICS, which has a long history of producing excellent running kit, says that there are special features to these tights that will help improve your comfort and performance, like a “core belt” to maintain correct positioning and extra support around your quads. The tights do indeed give you are great sense of stability and support, making them particularly suitable for those lengthy training runs through variable terrain.
10. Björn Borg Seasonal Solids Bra: £30, House of Fraser
If you’re after timeless Scandinavian efficiency, elegance and practicality, and if you want that all in a running bra, then look no further than this Björn Borg piece. It’s basic but functional, combines easily with almost any vest or long-sleeved running top, is sweat-wicking and dries quickly. We found it to provide decent support during a medium intensity run, so would perhaps look for something a little sturdier for a super high-intensity workout but at £35 it’s also at the lower end of the price range so worth every penny.
The Verdict: Women’s running gear for spring
If you’re after that rare combination of sleek style, immense comfort and performance-enhancing features, then head to Sweaty Betty and get your hands on a pair of the Contour Workout Leggings. Alone the prospect of slipping into them, will make that gruelling early-morning run (even in the rain!) seem that much more pleasurable.
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