The Best Inexpensive Workout Leggings and Shorts (that Can Withstand a CrossFit Workout)

October 19, 2020 by
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I bought my first pair of Lululemon leggings in 2009 — black bootcut yoga pants — and was an immediate convert.

It was the most I’d ever spent on a pair of leggings, but the quality and fit was exceptional. At the time, workout apparel options were mostly limited to big athletic wear brands like Nike, Under Armour, Adidas, and Reebok. They were functional, but not particularly fun or stylish.

Eventually, more high end athleisure brands appeared. In addition to my many pairs of Lululemon leggings, shorts, and tops, I tried leggings and shorts from Girlfriend Collective and Outdoor Voices. I liked the sustainability of the Girlfriend Collective —  their apparel is partly made from recycled water bottles, fishing nets, and other waste — and the workout-to-weekend vibe of Outdoor Voices.

However, I started to wonder why I was paying $100 for a pair of leggings when I kept seeing much cheaper versions on Amazon. Would these inexpensive versions hold up during a CrossFit workout, and would they last for at least a year or two without pilling or falling apart?

So, bored on one quiet early pandemic afternoon, I started looking for workout shorts on Amazon. All my Lululemon shorts were the shorter booty-short style — since I’d purchased them the trend had shifted to high waisted bike shorts. I wanted shorts that were more on trend, but I didn’t want to pay $60.

After a quick search I found a pair of Amazon Brand Core 10 Spectrum high waist short with a three-inch inseam for just under $20. I decided to roll the dice and order a pair. (The shorts I purchased are out of stock, but they do have the longer shorts with a five inch inseam.)  

These are now my favorite pair of shorts. They are great for running and CrossFit workouts, and I’ve received multiple compliments on them once I returned to classes at the gym. Something had happened since I bought my first pair of Lululemons — multiple companies figured out how to make buttery soft workout gear that’s stretchy but also offers coverage and control at very reasonable price points.

I wondered — were there other inexpensive options for my workout gear that would stay up during double-unders and last through workouts and washes? (But never the dryer! Workout gear with stretch or spandex should always be line dried, never thrown in the dryer.)

I asked my favorite female workout friends for their top recommendations for inexpensive CrossFit shorts and leggings that are squat proof, stay up during box jumps and burpees, and don’t pill or fall apart after a few trips through the washing machine. (Sorry guys, I have no experience with men’s workout clothes. Someone else will have to write that article!)

Best Inexpensive Shorts

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The retail price of these shorts is in the higher range, but my gym owner friend who recommended them said they almost always have a sale or a buy-one-get-one-free promotion to bring the price into the moderate category. (Right now they are having a 40% off sale that lowers the price to $30.) If you can find a deal on these shorts, she says they’re worth it. “Some of my shorts I’ve had for four years and they still look and fit great,” she said.

She also recommended Oalka, another Amazon brand. Their leggings all cost just over $20 and their high waist running shorts range in price from $9.99 to $24.99, depending on the size and color you order. These shorts have a five inch inseam, and my friend who recommended them said she loves them for running. Plus, they have pockets!

A friend who is a longtime CrossFit athlete told me she got tired of yanking down her workout shorts, and said she loves Persit’s High Waist Yoga Shorts because they are the perfect length and never ride up. These squat proof leggings come with tummy control and two hidden pockets, and sell for $17.99 to $21.95 on Amazon.

Best Inexpensive Leggings

If you’re a fan of the Lululemon Align pant, but don’t love the $98 price tag, my personal trainer friend says ColorfulKoala’s high waisted full length yoga pants feel almost exactly the same for less than half the price. For sale on their website or on Amazon (of course), the full length leggings sell for $22.99 to $28.99, depending on the size and color. According to my friend, they stay put during her CrossFit workouts and she recommends them to all her clients.

For those looking for something a little different than every other high-waisted legging, the Real Me High Waisted Crossover Legging from Aerie features a crossover v-shaped seam in the front that reviewers say is flattering and comfortable. Available in a variety of patterns and retailing for $44.95 (but on sale right now for $31.46) these leggings are another great Lululemon substitute — one reviewer said she was never going back to the higher-priced leggings after trying these.

Another CrossFit coach I talked to recently discovered the brand Flamingo and their matching sets of tops and leggings for only $29.99. “Super fun, lots of compression in all the right places and so cheap,” she said. She’s only had them for a few months, but said they’ve held up well. The only downside, she said, is her brightly-colored leggings have gotten black marks on them from the rubber floors and dumbbells. Opt for the darker colors if you’ll be using them in a gym with black floor mats.

Inexpensive workout wear does have some drawbacks. Many of these brands don’t have a commitment to sustainable, eco-friendly fabrics, and the low price may come from clothing produced in factories with poor working conditions. If you don’t have the budget for high-end workout clothes, but want a more environmentally friendly choice, two good options are Poshmark and ThredUp, where you can buy good quality second-hand activewear. I’ve purchased a few pairs of barely-worn Lululemon shorts from Poshmark.

Know of any good sources for inexpensive workout clothes? Let us know in the comments!

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