It’s worth making some effort to find the absolute best running tights. Whether you’re a casual weekend runner or are building a serious milage base for a spring marathon, getting out for a run on a crisp winter day is a pleasure—as long as you’re not shivering the whole time. And while most running tights looks pretty similar—sleek synthetic fabric, maybe a pocket, usually black—having a good pair makes a world of difference. (It’s hard to achieve that elusive runners high when your tights are chaffing, tugging, or flapping at your ankles at mile two.)
The search for a better tight has created whole universe of hard-to-pronounce technological advances and proprietary fabric blends, making it harder and harder to weed out what products are legit and what is just lip service. So we decided to log some cold miles to determine the best running tights for every situation under the sun, from tech-ed out leggings that combat rain and snow to pant-tight-short hybrids that are forcing us to rethink what the best running tights should even look like to begin with.
The Best All-Around Running Tight
Design, fit, storage, price. New Balance nailed just about everything with their Impact Run Tight, which is made with their NB DRY technology to help pull sweat and moisture away from the body. The two side pockets (one zippered, one open) are some of the least invasive of any tight we’ve tried (while still providing a ton of space), and zippered bottoms mean you don’t have to worry about stretching out the footholes when taking these on and off.
The Best Running Tights (That Are Also Shorts)
New York-based label Jacques has a knack for combining minimalist design with extreme functionality, and this is fully in effect with their 2-in-1 Movement Compression Pant. It’s a genius short-tight hybrid, which adds warmth where you need it and also keeps you from fighting your own personal battle of the bulge. (Serious runners sometimes disdain the shorts-over-tights look, but it’s a lot more comfortable if your run ends at brunch or the gym.) But what we love most is all the practical storage space—an expandable phone pocket big enough to hold the largest of iPhones, plus two side zipper pockets to guarantee your keys and credit card stay with you through your entire run.
The Best Hybrid Running Tight
If you are still hesitant about committing fully to running tights, but not interested in the annoying swish-swish of something looser, the design team at Nike have come up with yet another innovation we wish we had thought of: lightweight joggers that transition into full on tights at the knee. The perforations on the back of the legs help ensure breathability while also enhancing mobility.
The Best 3/4-Length Running Tight
Sometimes it’s not that cold, and perhaps you just want to show off a little skin. Complete with the covetable side pocket for a phone, these slightly-shorter tights have a thick waistband and quiet profile that make them a great option for layering while still providing enough coverage to wear solo. Their best feature, though, is the gripper hem on the inside of the leg openings that ensure they never ride up.
The Best Running Tight for Layering
Most running tights lack any sort of grip to help keep a pair of shorts from slipping down if you opt for the layered look. The BNS Training Leggings from Castore—made from a combination of nylon and spandex— feature a wide mesh waistband that your favorite pair of shorts can lock on to with ease. Their simple, no frills design also lends itself to pairing a wilder style on top.
The Best Running Right for the Rain
If you’re like me, you actually enjoy running in the rain. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same thing for most running tights. Gore’s R3 tights are water-resistant and fleece-lined, and smartly placed panels of Gore’s Windstopper fabric do exactly what the name promises, but they’re still relatively lightweight—you won’t feel like you’re running in a wetsuit.
The Coolest Running Tights
Made in France with the assistance of Israeli nylon masters NILIT, the stretch fabric on these tights from Satisfy provide some always-welcome compression. The fabric is made with coffee-charcoal infused fibers, making them not just heat-retentive, but bacteria- and odor-resistant as well. Topped off with flat seams and bonded hems to eliminate chafing, even the zippers are outward facing to avoid any irritation. Is $250 too much to spend on running tights? If you’re logging marathon-runner numbers each week, why not do so in Earth-toned luxury?
6 More Running Tights We Love
When GQ’s senior editor Sam Schube began training for a marathon last summer, his first stop was L.A.-based District Vision, best-known amongst runners for their techy eyewear. Appropriately, their unisex full-length tights have a perfect sunglass pocket.
In an attempt to settle the debate over whether you need to wear underwear underneath your running tights, our friends at Tracksmith took their already beloved Turnover tights and added a lightweight, built-in liner—similar to what you would find in most running shorts these days. If nothing else, think of it as an extra layer of protection against chafing and the elements.
Perfect for those cold but not quite frigid days (we’re talking around 40 degrees), Hoka’s Performance Full Length Tight is made from recycled nylon and is engineered to provide both thermal and UV protection.
Brooks designed their Source Tight with as little stitching as possible to create one of the most comfortable, lightweight running tights on the market. They’re sleek enough to do double-duty at yoga.
London-based Soar took a grand tour around continental Europe to construct these running tights—a thicker Italian fabric across the quads provides warmth while a woven French fabric on the calf adds compression.
These nail the fit and comfort, and while they’re not completely water-resistant, Adidas’s built-in Aeroready technology does help promote quicker drying if you ever get caught in a passing rain shower.