I’ll admit: I fought the leggings thing for a while.
In 2012, I returned to the States after a year in South Korea — and everyone was wearing them as pants. I thought it was ludicrous.
Then, I bought a pair for yoga. Holy moly: They were so comfortable.
Slowly, my yoga pants devolved into just-running-to-the-store pants. And, eventually, into wear-all-the-time-for-any-reason pants. (You fellow legging worshippers know how it goes.)
It appears the trend isn’t going anywhere, and since it’s once again legging season in most of the world, I wanted to find out which are best.
Which ones aren’t thin and ill-fitting, and instead are thick and luxurious — all on a budget, of course.
After polling our office and Facebook community group for their faves, I compiled a list of eight leggings under $20 to purchase and test — plus one bonus brand, which I’ll reveal at the end.
Here are the results…
The Best Leggings for Women Under $20 (and the Worst)
I asked each model to review her leggings, and then rate them from 1-10, based on comfort, look and value. Then I averaged the numbers to find a total score and rank each pair from worst to best.
Ready? Let’s do it…
Lush Moda Seamless Leggings ($9.99)
Since I was writing this post, I picked last when it came to which leggings I got to model — and it looks like the other ladies knew what was up (hint: not these).
They come in tons of fun colors (even Penny Hoarder purple!), but that’s where the fun ends. They’re see-through when you bend over, made of a strange shiny material that isn’t very comfortable and are WAY too long for short girls.
As much as I loved “The Hills,” LC’s leggings were near the bottom of the list. Though some reviewers described them as the “most comfortable leggings ever,” our model didn’t agree.
She got the small length, but they were still too big for her.
“They’re too baggy, and they’re not super soft,” she said. “I’m disappointed, since they had such good reviews online!”
Oh, and they were the most expensive ones we tested — so even though they might work for taller or curvier women, I’d still recommend you go with one of the choices below.
Danskin Now Cotton Sport Leggings ($12.95)
I adore my super-soft No Boundaries leggings from Walmart, but these Danskin ones didn’t do the trick for our model.
“The fabric is kind of coarse and a little scratchy,” she said. “They’re pretty thick. The seams are a little too heavy, and they have a super weird drawstring. I’d wear them to work out, but not as pants.”
5. Victoria’s Secret PINK
Lounge Legging ($19.50)
These were the second most expensive leggings we tried, and though there was nothing wrong with them, they might not be the best value on the list.
“They’re kind of boring, but I like them,” our model said. “The fit is perfect; no muffin top and no awkwardness you-know-where.”
“They last a long time,” one reader did note. “Eight years or more.”
4. Sam’s Club
Marika Fitted Capri (2 for $16.99)
Who woulda thought you could find high-quality workout leggings at Sam’s Club?
These leggings are definitely on the sporty side, but that suited our model just fine.
“They’re super thick so you don’t have the see-through effect when you bend over,” she said. “And wait for it… they have pockets! Really big pockets that can hold your phone and keys.”
3. Forever 21
Classic Leggings ($3.90)
Clocking in at around the same price as your daily latte, these leggings are definitely the cheapest on the list. And, according to our model, they’re worth the price!
“They’re soft and non-constricting,” she said. “They go up high so they’re good for covering any stomach issues… but if I bend over, they’re kind of see-through. I have to make sure they don’t bunch up in the front. I’d wear them to lounge or under a dress, if that’s still a style — I don’t think it is — but probably not with a short top.”
Mossimo Printed Leggings ($17.99)
Everyone loves Target, and our research suggests everyone will love Target leggings, too. We didn’t even have to buy these; our model already had a pair sitting in her dresser.
“I love the colors and the patterns, and they’re really comfortable,” she said. “The quality is great; I’ve had them for a year and they’re holding up well. I think they’re a good value.”
I linked to a similar pair above, but if you want a bigger selection of patterns and sizes, you’ll have to go into your local Target store.
1. Old Navy
Patterned Leggings ($12.50)
Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner.
Our model loved how comfy and flattering these leggings were.
“I have a big butt and am 5’10”,” she said, “so it’s nice how well they fit.” She did warn they’re a little bit see-through if you bend over, so “maybe wear a longer shirt with them.”
Even better, “They have lasted several years with heavy use,” one reader told us. “And [there are] no issues with them going see through on me.”
For $12.50 and such cute patterns, I’m excited to give these a try!
Bonus Leggings: LuLaRoe
Okay, I know these leggings aren’t under $20 — but since so many community members and staffers cast their votes for this brand, I had to include it somehow.
Here are some of the words the LuLaRoe devotees used to describe their favorite pair of leggings:
“Comfort is 100% amazingness.” “Incredible.” “Buttery soft.” “Magical fabric.”
“Looks good even on us CURVY girls.”
“They’re not too thin, they don’t show your butt, and they don’t bunch where you don’t want them to bunch.”
“They’re the most fashionable because of the patterns and options. They’re the most durable. You can wear them as pants, because they have a band.”
“They’re insanely soft and stretchy, but somehow still opaque… they’re all breathable yet insulating enough for cool weather.”
The few downsides mentioned? The cost: It’s $25 for one pair. They only come in two sizes: regular or tall and curvy, and sometimes the cuts can vary.
They also aren’t available in stores, so you must buy them from a consultant. If you don’t personally know any, you can search for one in your area using the company’s website.
Or, search LuLaRoe on Facebook, and tons of groups will pop up. When I did this, I found out several friends of mine recently hosted their own LuLaRoe parties.
So, they’re expensive and kind of a pain to get — but for real leggings-as-pants aficionados, they might be well worth it.
What do you think? Do you agree with my findings, or did I miss your favorites?
Oh, and if you live in an area with fall weather, please send some cool breezes down to Florida so I can join in the legging fun!
Your Turn: Did your favorite leggings make the list?
Susan Shain, senior writer for The Penny Hoarder, is always seeking adventure on a budget. Visit her blog at susanshain.com, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain. Editorial intern Jacquelyn Pica also did a LOT of the legwork.