If you were to observe two people standing side by side casually, one wearing yoga leggings and the other wearing yoga pants, you probably couldn’t tell the difference one way or the other.
They look like nothing more than casual wear but also have a distinct and separate history. Yoga pants are designed for fitness, whether you are in a yoga class conducting your physical fitness regimen in the comfort of your own home.
On the other hand, Leggings were initially designed as a sort of thermal wear—something to put on underneath your clothes to keep your legs warm in the winter.
Even thin leggings have a degree of thermal protection. Then there’s the fact that women often wear yoga pants as leggings, so what’s the difference between them?
Yoga pants are a relatively recent phenomenon. First hitting the scene in the late 1990s, yoga pants were designed with moisture-wicking fabric or as a moisture-absorbing material.
In less than a quarter of a century, yoga pants are now a part of fashion as regular leggings. Yoga pants are generally skin-tight, but tight leggings are necessary when it comes to yoga routines.
They are manufactured using polyester, nylon, cotton, or bamboo. They’re about as far from traditional pants as you can get.
Regardless of the primary material, yoga pants include a small percentage of spandex to create that stretchy pants feel and comfort. They’re not just meant for yoga class either since they also make great activewear leggings for jogging, gym or yoga studio, everyday wear, or just lounging around the house.
Yoga pants have earned popularity because of their style and features.
- Tight-fitting but comfortable
- Moisture wicking properties
- Stretchy material
- Come in full length, ankle length, calf length, thicker fabric, thin fabric, and various different styles
- Breathable fabric to get you through yoga practice
- A variety of materials
Most women love to wear yoga pants simply because of how comfortable they are and how much they resemble regular leggings.
Yoga Pants Materials
Yoga pants are designed with different materials. Almost all of those materials are focused on the ability to stretch and move with as little restriction as possible, including yoga sweatpants, even though they are nowhere near as skin-tight as standard yoga pants. Yoga sweatpants are the only loose-fitting yoga pants manufactured.
While most yoga pants are designed to run the length of your legs, there’s more variety than that. As workout pants go, you will find yoga pants designed like bike shorts, yoga capris, high-waisted yoga pants, and somewhere between a Capri style and full length.
Regardless of yoga pants styles, the yoga pants clothing industry sticks with pretty strict criteria in terms of materials. You won’t be doing any of your yoga poses in cotton. But yoga pants aren’t limited to just thin, skin-tight materials either. During the winter, thicker material yoga pants are as effective as thick cotton leggings.
Whether the material is thick or thin, it’s all about performance with sweat-wicking properties and a high degree of durability. You’re far more likely to rip a pair of cotton leggings than you are a pair of yoga pants when you’re practicing yoga or in yoga classes.
Yoga Pants Styles
Yoga pants were initially designed as a version of athletic leggings, even though leggings in those days were generally of the non-stretchy variety. The goal was to create a stretchy fabric that was sweat-wicking and highly durable. In short, something good not only for performing yoga but also for any other kind of exercise routine.
As people tend to do, yoga pants were converted into a fashion statement, which resulted in more styles being introduced as the years went by.
- The standard yoga legging
- Yoga shorts
- Yoga Capris
- Yoga ankle length
- Yoga high waistband
- yoga thick waistband
The list goes on, but you probably get the point. Women wear yoga pants as casually as they ever did with leggings. And it makes sense in a lot of ways. A simple trip to the grocery store typically requires a lot of bending, squatting, and stretching.
Yoga pants are ideal in those situations, along with the fact that they are not usually see-through and are durable enough so that there aren’t any embarrassing moments.
Of course, women wear leggings for casual wear as well, but they lack the durability of yoga pants. Another advantage that yoga pants have over leggings, whether you’re doing yoga poses or trying to grab an item off of the bottom shelf, is reinforced stitching. It all makes for very good reasons for throwing on some yoga pants to be worn casually.
Best Yoga Pants
Since yoga pants have taken a casual and stylish place in the wardrobe, there are a good variety of styles to choose from while knowing that underneath the vibe, they’re durable and long-lasting.
IUGA High Waist Yoga Capri
IUGA prides itself in body inclusivity and these yoga capris come in sizes ranging from extra small (xs) to 3XL. They’re popular because they hug well, without being uncomfortable, and stay in place no matter how strenuous your workout is.
Ododos Out Pocket High Waist Yoga Pants
The Ododos Out Pockets are some of the best-rated yoga pants on Amazon. They fit well, stay in place, and have an additional pocket, which is enormously helpful for carrying your smartphone on a morning jog. The Ododos is one of the best yoga pants on the market for a good reason.
BALEAF Women’s Active Yoga Sweats
In case you’re not feeling something skin tight every day, the BALEAF Women’s Active are highly popular yoga sweats in sizes XS to 3XL. They offer a comfortable, durable fit without breaking the bank.
90° by Reflex Power Flex
The 90° by Reflex are low to medium-impact yoga pants that don’t command a back-breaking price. Despite the lower price tag, these are high-quality yoga pants made almost entirely from nylon with a splash of spandex.
Yoga Pants Pros and Cons
With yoga pants and leggings, it’s often difficult to find any cons, but there are some, even for those who adore both their yoga pants and leggings. There is a lot to love about yoga pants, especially if you are really into yoga. They’re highly useful and more than convenient.
- They are very comfortable
- They can be worn for yoga, casual use, public, or lounging around the house
- Goes well with T-shirts
- They give you a slimmed-down appearance
- Easy to mix and match with accessories
- incredibly durable and stretchy
- Not fashionable
At least in the traditional sense, leggings have been around for far longer than yoga pants. Not only are they historically older, but they were also a matter of men’s fashion. Men wore leggings in the 1700s into the 1800s and didn’t become a pure woman style until the 1960s.
Even though leggings were designed more for comfort and warmth as an undergarment, women started wearing them to have something to do aerobics workouts in. In a way, leggings were the inception point for the eventual yoga pants. Leggings and yoga pants have much more in common than first glance will tell.
While we recognize the difference between leggings and yoga pants today, even if only on an intellectual level, that difference wasn’t always so apparent. The original leggings were not made of stretchy, skin-tight material, although they were undoubtedly tighter than blue jeans.
Nowadays, leggings are just as stylish and fashionable as any other pants, except they’re generally more see-through and come in various styles, materials, and general features.
- Come in a variety of materials
- Come in a variety of styles
- Loose or tight-fitting
- Tons of color options
- Thinner material (often see-through) for hot summers
- Come with some degree of allowance for physical activities (activewear leggings)
- Some leggings offer thicker material as well
The most important thing about leggings is that they are designed to be many things, such as comfortable, fashionable, light workout pants, lounge around the house pants, and so on.
The materials used in the manufacturing process for leggings are more varied than for yoga pants. They’re highly versatile, and the type of material that goes into them dictates what you buy them for.
- Cotton and organic cotton
- Polyester and recycled polyester
- Leather and faux leather leggings
You can fit several activities into those material categories, including fashion leggings, leather pants, workout leggings, everyday leggings, activewear leggings, or something closer to a yoga pants style.
Faux leather and leather pants leggings are typically the most fashionable and high-priced types of leggings on the market. Cotton leggings are the best for sweat-wicking, but they are also the most see-through option of the bunch.
Polyester and Nylon aren’t see-through and are probably the closest leggings that can come to workout-level. However, polyester tends to smell with just a little sweat, and nylon will shrink if you’re not careful.
Leggings Pants Styles
Unlike yoga pants, leggings have more style, including stirrup-style leggings, footless and footed leggings, looser-fitting leggings, and just about every color you can imagine.
If you wear leggings a lot, there is no lack of choices in the leggings market.
When it comes to pants vs leggings, the gap has closed in terms of fashion. Leggings are every bit as popular today as regular pants, whether they’re khakis or blue jeans. This legging is typically thin and more stretchy for a more form-fitting appearance.
Leggings designed for fashion typically come in patterns such as mixtures of different colors, animal skin patterns, stripes, dots, etc.
One thing is true about leggings—they practically go with anything you decide to put on. The only thing you have to do with leggings is a color match.
Leggings aren’t designed to have the durability and long-lasting quality of yoga pants; however, some leggings are focused more on an active lifestyle than just fashion.
These are usually designed with moisture-absorbing or wicking materials, are solid in color and are best for jogging or other running exercises.
While you probably won’t find double stitching with leggings designed for fitness activities, they are generally more durable than a standard pair of leggings.
Footless and Footed Leggings
These two are just what they sound like. Footless leggings are your traditional leggings or yoga pants, while footed leggings cover the feet entirely. It’s like they combined comfortable socks with leggings.
The footed leggings are often made out of wool and are the perfect leggings for wintertime.
High-waisted versions of leggings are just like their high-waistline yoga pants counterparts. They are regular leggings with a very high waist that often travels up to well above the navel. Leggings and yoga pants share this trait with many others, making them difficult to differentiate to casual observers.
Leggings and yoga pants are easy to confuse, especially when you are online shopping, and even the online store is more than happy to call leggings ‘yoga pants and yoga pants ‘leggings.’ Fortunately, we can throw a few of the best leggings your way to narrow down your choices.
Lululemon Align Pants
Lululemon manufactures some of the most popular leggings and yoga pants today. The Lululemon Align Pants are opaque tights with a very smooth fabric.
These are perfect for laying around the house or running errands, and they come in many colors, patterns, and sizes to choose from. While you can’t run a hot yoga session in them, they’re the perfect casual pants.
Spanx Faux Leather Leggings
If you’re looking for some fun material leggings for a night out on the town, the Spanx Faux leggings should be high on your list. They have a tight, form-fitting look, and you can throw them in the washing machine without ruining them. They also have a wide range of sizes to choose from.
Under Armour ColdGear Authentic Compression Legging
This is as close as leggings get to yoga-level capabilities in the yoga pants vs. leggings battle. The Under Armour ColdGear is fleece-lined inside and compresses well without making you uncomfortable. Regarding yoga pants, these are designed for working out, with welded seams and dual-layer fabric. It’s not Alo Yoga, but it’s as close as you’re likely to get.
Under Armour HeatGear Leggings
Leggings vs yoga pants is a losing battle for leggings, but Under Armour comes close. First with the ColdGear variation and now with their HeatGear. It’s the exact opposite here, with thinner, moisture-removing materials and a compressive fit that eases muscle strain and soreness during workouts.
Leggings Pros and Cons
As with everything in life, there are pros and cons to filing your dresser up with nothing but leggings. Leggings are great for a lot of things but certainly not for everything.
There’s no doubt that even if you don’t prefer leggings, there is a massive market for them, and they’re not likely to lose out in the popularity battle soon.
- Can be worn with almost anything
- Gives you a slimmed-down look
- Multiple colors to choose from
- Multiple materials
- Athletic, casual, and fashion options
- They’re often see through
- Some colors and materials are off-putting
Yoga Pants and Leggings
Now that you know a lot more about the ins and outs of yoga pants and leggings, there are some subtle differences. However, it’s not enough to easily differentiate between the two unless you own them and wear them a lot.
The primary difference is in the manufactured materials and the very different history. Regarding material and style, leggings have more leeway and creative freedom in fashion than yoga pants.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t wear yoga pants outside the house. Yoga pants are every bit as comfortable as leggings, and they also happen to have a very casual appearance. Yoga pants are more than adequate if you need to do something as simple as running a few errands.
Leggings have a little more style, and most lack the incredible durability features of yoga pants.
All Things Considered
Yoga pants and leggings make some pretty good comparisons, yet they are just different enough that they deserve to fall under two different categories.
If you’re looking for comfort and fashion, leggings are the way to go. If you prefer something more casual so that you can also jump into a yoga routine, yoga pants should be at the top of your list.