Whether you’re a recent fitness convert or have been exercising regularly for years, the right apparel can make all the difference in terms of the right support, avoiding chafing and sunburn and helping to get you in the right state of mind to sweat.
From yoga and cycling to HIIT and running, the below products will see you through exercising in the comfort of your own living room and the great outdoors with ease.
TALA’s Zinnia leggings are soft and flexible for an array of sporting activities (Photo: TALA)
A relative newcomer to the fitness wear scene, Tala prides itself on its green credentials. Its sleek, modern activewear is made from recycled cotton, polyester fibre and other recycled material, including plastic water bottles, minimal chemicals and dye, creating incredibly stretchy garments.
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The brand’s Zinnia leggings are made from 92 per cent repurposed polyamide fibres and 8 per cent elastane, stretching firmly from the high waistband to the ankle. While online reviews have highlighted the weakness of Tala leggings’ stitching around the crotch, I haven’t experienced any issues after repeated wears during HIIT sessions and outdoor runs. They fit snugly without feeling oppressively tight around the thick waistband or ankles, and are thick without retaining too much heat.
GapFit’s Breathe Open-Back Tank has an adjustable knot to tighten or loosen the top’s fit (Photo: GAP)
Available in a variety of colours and styles, Gap’s fitness tops are simple basics that every workout wardrobe could benefit from.
Its jersey-knit fitness tops are ideal for indoor workouts and outdoors activity in warmer weather. Made from super soft and high-quality polyester, lyocell and elastane mix fabric, the tops are open at the back and knotted at the bottom, allowing air to pass over your back freely. You can also adjust the knot for a tighter fit.
Under Armour’s Infinity Sports Bra provides great coverage and support during even the most rigorous exercise (Photo: Under Armour)
Under Armour wasn’t messing around when it designed the Infinity bra – a single-padded encaspulation design created to absorb the shock of high-energy activities like running, aerobics, HIIT and field sports. Its adjustable straps are worn diagonally across the back for more even weight distribution and it’s fastened using the same hook-and-eye closure as regular bras for a tighter fit across the ribcage.
Consequently, it’s both flexible and supportive – wicking away sweat and mimimising painful bounce during even rigorous exercise. It won’t ride up at the back or rub along the seams and is a solid choice for larger-chested runners.
Karrimor’s Ladies Running Tights are the cheap and cheerful option for runners on a budget (Photo: Karrimor)
Karrimor’s leggings aren’t as hi-tech as their more expensive rivals, but at £16, they’re incredible value for money. Made from thick, flexible material, they’re able to withstand wind, rain and mud and resist the tears and sagging that plagues thinner, less durable running tights. They also last for years – I’ve worn Karrimor leggings week in, week out for years with no visible sign of wear. Highly recommend.
On’s Running Shorts are expensive but excellently made, with zero chance of the inner cuff riding up during your run (Photo: On)
On’s running shorts are made from lightweight polyester layered over elastane-polyester inner briefs, designed to maintain a close fit while providing breezy ventilation. Unlike rival designs, the inner shorts’ cuffs are lined with plastic dots to prevent them from riding up while running, avoiding any uncomfortable bunching when you’re concentrating on dodging pedestrians.
There’s a small zipable pocket built under the waistband on the rear, which is roomy enough to accommodate keys, cards and headphones but would struggle to fit anything other than a small phone.
While significantly more expensive than rival manufacturers, On’s shorts are perfectly designed for runners who find feeling restricted or sweaty prevents them from performing their best, and crucially: comfortable while still fitted enough to prevent the legs’ fabric from flapping about and becoming a pain.
Nike’s Swoosh Sports Bra allows for a wide array of movement while maintaining support (Photo: Nike)
Nike’s compression-style sports bras are great all-rounders. They fit tightly but not uncomfortably, offering high support for small-medium chests while running, jumping and other medium to high-impact activities. Their racerback cut allows shoulders to move freely and their fit is true to life, making finding the right size a simple procedure.
Under Armour’s Meridian Bottoms in hi-rise have pockets on either side of the thigh to hold your phone securely while running (Photo: Under Armour)
While Under Armour’s Meridian bottoms are both comfy and high-quality enough to avoid any sagging or transparency over time, their best quality is the inbuilt phone pouches stitches into each hip. The elasticated pockets are large enough to easily accommodate larger handsets (like Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro Max) while being secure enough to hold it in place, spelling an end to fears of sending your phone hurtling out onto an unforgiving pavement.
This clever feature more than makes up for the leggings’ lack of a small zipable pocket on their rear, aided by a nylon/elastane fit that’s snug without veering into being too tight. If you want to take your phone running but dislike clippable pouches or arm holders, these are an excellent alternative.
Ellesse’s Pipoleta cropped vest has a pocket between the shoulder blades for secure storage of small objects (Photo: Ellesse)
If you prefer to keep your gear to a minimum while running, the Ellesse Pipoleta sports bra is a great option in keeping things as lightweight as possible.
The cut-out design has a mesh pocket built into its back resting between the shoulder blades, a good size for keys and a debit card, though its open mouth means larger phone owners may want to err on the side of caution. At £20, it’s also very reasonably priced.
TALA Mina Bra£28Best for: Doubling up as a top
TALA’s Mina Bra is stylish enough to double up as outerwear (Photo: TALA)
Tala’s high compression Mina sports bra doubles as a durable-high stretch top that offers good support while maintaining flexibility to accommodate running and jumping. The polymide-elastane mix is slightly rough to the touch but doesn’t irritate or chafe, wicking away sweat and moisture and allowing skin to breathe.
It comes with bra cups for additional coverage which are supposed to be removed when washing, but I found they puckered the material slightly so removed them – it’s thick enough to get away without revealing too much. A stylish alternative to more traditional compression bras.
Tog24’s leggings are incredibly comfy, strong and durable (Photo: Tog24)
Yorkshire-based family company Tog24 are renowned for their long-wearing, high-quality outdoor wear, and their Balby leggings are no exception. High-waisted and designed to sit on the ankle, they’re perfectly optimised to retain warmth in windy conditions while allowing skin to breathe and wick away sweat.
While the waistband zip pocket is too small for a phone, it’s fine for keys and a bank card, and the little white Yorkshire rose icon on the back of the left ankle is a nice touch. Crucially, the seams running the length of the legs and around the lower back and crotch don’t chaft.
Overall, the leggings are extremely comfortable – whether worn for HIIT sessions, outdoor runs, practising yoga or simply lounging around – and excellent value considering you’ll want to wear them as much as humanly possible.
On Performance-T£70Best for: Runners who love lighter tops but want full coverage
On’s Performance-T is a dual-tone shirt for maximum ventilation while running (Photo: On)
On’s Performance-T is a great choice for runners who want to feel as cool as possible while remaining covered. Its loose-fitting polyester encourages air to flow around the body while running, wicking away sweat to ensure the fabric remains lightweight and dry.
The bottom edges where the front and mesh back t-shirt panels meet are sealed with tape to prevent any irritation from seams, and the sleeves are cut wide enough to avoid clinging to the upper arms and rubbing over time. Very expensive for a shirt, but one you’d be particularly grateful for during long races.
Ellesse’s Bellinion cycling shorts don’t ride up, bunch or chafe (Photo: Ellesse)
The Ellesse Bellinion cycling shorts have plenty of stretch and coverage while maintaining a comfortably close fit – free from bunching or chafing. They stay firmly in place just above the knee while running and sit firmly across the hip without digging in.
Just as suitable for long runs and HIIT sessions as cycling, these shorts are durable, soft and a great choice for exercising outdoors in hot weather. While their lack of waistband or side pocket is a shame, at £20 they’re a bargain.
ActivePosture’s Women’s Posture Shirt’s neurobands run down the spine and across the shoulders for extra support in training your muscles (Photo: ActivePosture)
ActivePosture’s shirts are designed to “create postural awareness” whether exercising or simply relaxing through a series of neuroband and mesh panels that stimulate the muscles around the shoulders.
The medically registered tight-fitting shirt, which looks like a sleek fitness top and feels a bit like neoprene, creates a slight pull around and across your upper back. This makes it more difficult to slump or hunch over, which the company claims will lessen back, neck and shoulder pain over time. This muscle stimulation can feel uncomfortable to begin with – the sensation is similar to wearing a loose-ish resistance band across your shoulders – so ActivePosture recommends building up your tolerance to it gradually, wearing it for one or two hours at a time.
This is with a view to building up muscle memory over time, leading to a stronger back and neck and forming better habits around how you hold yourself. Having tested the shirt over a month when working from home has contributed to temporary lower back pain, I’d say the shirt has certainly heightened my awareness of habits like rounding my shoulders or slouching while sitting. While I’d need to test the shirt over a longer period to be entirely sure, people with more consistent back and neck pain may notice a more marked improvement more quickly.