Loading... Please wait...

Ladies guide: How to buy fitness pants?


Buying fitness pants can be a daunting experience for any woman. Pants are not cheap and making mistakes after you've paid for it can be very costly. On the other hand fitness pants that we like often become one of our favourite garments and we want to wear them all the time even in situations when exercising is the last thing on our mind.

Whether it is for fashion reasons or for the love of freedom, I don’t know, you will surely not stop seeing pictures or hearing stories of Julia Roberts or Cameron Diaz doing their shopping in their workout pants.

So what do you look for when buying fitness pants to avoid disappointment?


Every woman approaches shopping in a different way. It usually depends on her needs. The first question that we should ask ourselves is what purpose should our pants serve? Is it for high or low intensity workout? Will we use it indoors, outdoors or both? Do we need a great range of movement? Do we want to stand out from the crowd or just hide in a corner?

The purpose when buying something is very important as it determines many other factors that we need to bear in mind. For high intensity workouts, you are pretty much left with only nylon or polyester based fabrics to choose from. If you don’t expect to sweat a lot then other materials like cotton may be fine. If you always train indoors where air conditioning is set on high, then wearing thicker or less breathable black pants is more comfortable than having them on in 40 degree weather.

If we expect our bodies to bend like crazy doing yoga poses or pole dancing, we will need a material that is stretchy. Finally, if we want others to think “I wish my pants looked like hers” then we may need to spend a bit extra on a stylish design made of nice looking fabric.


Many years ago, the only stretchy thing you could put on your body was a swimming cap. That changed in 1959 when DuPont invented a fibre called Lycra® which revolutionised the clothing industry and allowed for the creation of very strong and expandable fabrics.

Although Lycra® still has its own place, the clothing industry has developed many extremely similar materials. They all share the common name of spandex or elastane. It is those fibres that make our clothes resistant to stretching and keep the shape unchanged despite many hours of exercise. It is also what makes the clothes comfortable.

Of course not every woman feels the necessity to wear stretchy pants but the limitations of non-expandable clothes are obvious. A pilates session in pants that don’t allow the knees to bend comfortably would not be my favourite, nor would it during a run when my fluffy and sweaty pants touch my thighs with each and every step forward.

If you want the fabric to stretch it must contain spandex (or elastane or Lycra®). Fabrics based on cotton usually contain about 3-6% of spandex. They will provide a cottony feel to the touch but will stretch only to a certain degree. A cotton blend is usually good for tops and for low intensity exercises when sweating is not excessive. Cotton does not dry quickly and gets quite heavy when wet so your comfort may be limited. While we are talking about pants, I should mention that cotton is not a strong fibre and will not survive heavy beating.

A much more appropriate fabric for fitness pants are made of a nylon or polyester blend. They usually contain between 4-20% of spandex, though a low percentage means limited stretch while a lot of spandex is more appropriate for swimsuits or more specialised track suits.

Both nylon and polyester are very strong, have great moisture wicking capability and don’t fade or change colour when exposed to the sun. Polyester dries a little quicker but usually has a rougher feel. Nylon still dries very quickly but tends to have a softer feel and is generally a more expensive material. I suggest you go and check what your favourite fitness pants are made of. I will not be surprised if it is made of a nylon/spandex blend (often called Supplex too).


Just as equally important to fabric is the design that will make pants comfortable or not. It can also make them look great or just plain ordinary. Even though there is a variety of models out there on the market, there is an even wider variety of shapes that should be catered for. Therefore, when it comes to saying whether it feels fine or not, there is only one person who can actually assess this -yes, you guessed right. It's you!

Before you make an in shop purchase, there are ways to quickly check if the pants are the right pair for you. This applies to any online purchases too, after the purchase, before you fall in love with them and have to send them back.

The first step is to forget about the mirror. Don't twirl around to see how they look but instead think about how they feel. Focus on the size first. Are they too tight or too loose? Or are they just right. Does anything feel uncomfortable?

Now take a few steps forward, do some squats and jumps and finish off with a few stretches to see if they stay in place. If everything is fine after going through these steps, you can now stand in front of the mirror and look. This is the moment when you need to ask yourself if these pants look good.

There are by no means strict rules that you have to follow, but consider these guidelines:

Fluorescent colours look odd on older ladies.

Prints of dogs, cats or dragons are OK to share on Facebook, but not on your pants.

A low cut version looks better than a higher waist one in 8 out of 10 cases. Fashion has changed since Rick Astley was on the scene, pulling his pants up high until they reached his armpits. So unless you want to hide your so called muffin tops, it is safer to assume that a low waist cut is more fashionable. This however won't matter so much if you're not planning to show off your waist but to cover it up instead with a top.

If you are in a shop never, and I'll say it again, never trust a shop assistant to tell you what looks good on you. If your bonus depended on how much you sell, what would you say? When I came across an overly eager assistant one day, I instantly imagined Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s face telling me with this evil smile “I really care about you”. I immediately become resistant to any “truthful” compliments. Instead, ask friends and family but most of all trust you own taste and instinct.

One thing that should be mentioned, that is very important, is the sheerness of the pants. Even the best looking pants that show your underwear’s colour are a no no (seeing the washing label is not really a problem as it can be easily cut off anyway). You may remember this from last year when the founder of Lululemon blamed women for choosing pants too small for them instead of actually apologising for making a low quality product. I think it was outrageous and a completely out of place comment but fact is that wearing the right size will surely make a difference when choosing a lighter colour fabric. It is just physics. The darker the colour the more it absorbs the light and the lower probability of a see-through situation. You need to be more size cautious going for a lighter colour but for black pants to be sheer, there really is no excuse.


It can be really annoying when you buy a product you like just to find out that it starts to fall apart after a few gym sessions. Finish is what really splits good from average. Good companies pay a lot of money to get their clothes stitched professionally and their quality control is more stringent.

Average companies cut corners on purpose or simply adjust the cost to the quality they offer. But what should you look for when the product you are buying is supposed to be of high quality and costs a serious amount of money?

The easiest way is to turn the pants inside out and look at the stitching. It needs to look strong and solid especially at the end of the seam. When stretched sideways the stitch should not show signs of breaking apart. Better products will have flat stitching where two sides of the fabric are placed on top of each other and then stitched with 3 or preferably 4 needles (you will see 4 parallel lines). This type of finish provides extra comfort preventing the folded fabric from putting unnecessary pressure on the skin.


There are a lot of factors to be considered when buying fitness pants. Spending that extra bit of time to find the right pair for you can make for a very rewarding experience. As with any clothes these days, it is nice to be able to try on a few pairs in the shop but availability, variety and often the price favours online shopping. In such cases try reading forums, on site reviews and get as much information as possible from friends on what they found worth trying. Regardless of the shopping method you choose, remember to follow those few extra steps which will hopefully help you find a real gem.

Wishing you great buys followed by fantastic workouts,

V from Vamadoo

Popular Brands

Recent Updates