The best women's athleisure brands for every type of activity, including some you can even wear to work

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  • After centuries of uncomfortable retail trends, it's no surprise that athleisure has become so popular.
  • It's comfortable, utilitarian, and — depending on the brand and office setting — it can even be work-appropriate. 
  • Our go-to is Patagonia, though we're also fans of Outdoor Voices, Aerie, Athleta, Lululemon, and more.

Athleisure is the Bering Land Bridge that connected activewear and plainclothes in the late '90s.

It made spandex the new denim, wardrobes more versatile and comfortable, and created a new and ever-growing section of retail. It's also, to me, the universe balancing itself out after decades of trends that reinforce the idea that pain is beauty. 

In its best and most utilitarian form, athleisure is the best of all worlds. It transitions from one activity to the next without breaking a sweat: lounging, traveling, exercising, and, depending on the brand, even working. But, as the market opportunities grow, so do the options — and it gets difficult for shoppers, particularly those online, to discern where the best athleisure is, which brands are worth their money, and which are just benefiting from unearned markups on trendy products.

Below, you'll find the best athleisure brands we've researched, tested, and worn. Hopefully, it makes spending your money in the right places easier and faster the first time around. 

Here are the best athleisure brands for women:

  • Best overall athleisure brand: Patagonia
  • Best affordable athleisure brand: Aerie
  • Best splurge-worthy athleisure brand: Lululemon
  • Best gender-inclusive athleisure brand: Muttonhead Clothing
  • Best size-inclusive athleisure brand: Universal Standard
  • Best eco-friendly athleisure brand: Girlfriend Collective
  • Best office-appropriate athleisure brand: ADAY

Updated on 9/22/2020 by Mara Leighton: Adjusted budget picks to make Aerie our best overall choice and Athleta the runner-up. We're currently testing maternity athleisure options, including these supersoft Mama Maternity pants by Tupelo Honey which we love so far. We'll update this with any new recommendations soon. 

The best athleisure brand overall

Patagonia's athleisure is comfortable and versatile, and the company is responsible for a high percentage of our all-time favorite styles. We also appreciate the generous return policy and corporate responsibility. 

Patagonia makes a fantastic pair of athleisure leggings that we've tested, as well as one of mainstream culture's crown jewels of comfort: the Synchilla Snap-T Fleece Pullover. And whether you're a fan of the label and what it stands for or you couldn't care less, the brand's quality and comfort speak for itself. 

We trust Patagonia as much for form as we do for function — and while its prices aren't the least (or most) expensive options on the market, you'll get a wide variety of items, a product that's built to last, and the security of a generous return policy without a tight time limit. It's also a big perk that the company is a B Corp, has donated 1% of its profit to environmental organizations since the '80s, and won the UN's Champions of the Earth award for entrepreneurial vision.

You may get lucky with a seasonal Patagonia sale, but you'll probably only see discounts on its bestsellers — like the Synchilla Snap-T Fleece Pullover — in select colorways. 

What to buy: 

 

Read more about Patagonia:

  • 8 styles from Patagonia that we wear in our everyday lives — for both men and women
  • 18 pairs of workout leggings we swear by for everything from yoga to distance running
  • Patagonia released a collection of fashion-forward outerwear that perfectly marries sustainability with street style — here's what the jackets are like to wear
  • 3 women tried Patagonia's sustainable workout leggings — here are our reviews of everything from fit to function
  • I never understood why Patagonia had such a cult following until I tried this sweater — now I'm a loyal fan

Runner-up: OutdoorVoices

OutdoorVoices makes athleisure that successfully combines performance, style, and comfort equally. We swear by a handful of OV items, but we've also had some misses. It also skews more expensive. 

OutdoorVoices makes a few of our favorite athleisure items, and it's another example of a company that does a great job of balancing form and function. Its gear transitions seamlessly from lounging on the couch to rushing through the airport. But, we've had a few misses in the past with OV products (we're not super fans of the popular Spring Leggings), and its prices are comparable to Patagonia, with a less generous — but pretty standard — return policy. 

What to buy: 

Read more about OutdoorVoices:

  • I worked out in a dress from Outdoor Voices, the startup behind the most Instagram-worthy exercise clothes — and no, it's not a gimmick
  • 5 women tried Outdoor Voices' TechSweat leggings — we unanimously agreed that they're some of the best we've ever worn

The best affordable athleisure brand

Aerie athleisure is generally a good intersection of quality and price. We've bought some of our favorite items from the company, though we've stumbled across duds in the past as well. 

Coziness can be found in every budget range, and Aerie is one of our favorite places to shop for athleisure at reasonable prices, though it can be hit-or-miss. We've tested disappointingly thin leggings as well as found some of our all-time favorite athleisure products here, like the Offline Real Me Strappy Back Sports Bra and the Offline Real Me High Waisted Legging. We've also noticed that the brand's Offline collection is of better quality than previous collections.

We also like JoyLab athleisure at Target and Amazon's Core 10 line for more athleisure that doesn't break the bank.

Runner-up: Athleta

At full price, Athleta athleisure is generally more expensive than Aerie, but its quality tends is slightly more consistent and its style range wider. 

Gap's Athleta is a great combination of affordability, style, and functionality, and we liked the company's leggings quite a bit during testing. It also has a wide range of options — including its work-friendly Travel and Commute collection. It's also worth noting that you may get lucky with frequent discounts — so check the sale section first. 

We also appreciate Athleta's status as a B-Corp and its goal to go from 60% of sustainably made materials to 80% in 2020. 

The brand skews pricier than Aerie's loungewear, but you'll likely find more consistency in quality among various products at Athleta — though that may not be worth the markup if you're on a tight budget or you already know which Aerie products are standouts. It also tends to have a wider style range.

What to buy: 

 

Read more about Athleta:

  • Athleta's bright new activewear line promises to withstand your toughest workouts — we put it to the test
  • 18 pairs of workout leggings we swear by for everything from yoga to distance running
  • I tried popular activewear company Athleta's new line of women's performance underwear — and it makes a huge difference in comfort during workouts
  • We asked 4 women to try Athleta's new sustainable swimsuits made from recycled nylon — here's what they thought
  • B Corps are businesses committed to using their profit for good — these 14 are making some truly great products

The best splurge-worthy athleisure brand

Lululemon athleisure is the textbook athleisure prototype, and it makes some of the highest quality and most stylish gear we've worn for a wide range of activities. But, it's expensive. 

Lululemon is, in many ways, the genesis of athleisure, so it's not surprising that the company has an edge in the space. It's home to some of the best gear for yoga, running, training, and sweating while moving in general. As a note, it can get pricey — a pair of plain black leggings goes for nearly $100. But if the splurge is comfortable for you, we've found the clothes to be worth the investment because of their comfort, utility, and longevity.

What to buy: 

 

Read more about Lululemon:

  • This lightweight down jacket is my go-to for winter workouts — plus it's just tailored enough to wear casually
  • 18 pairs of workout leggings we swear by for everything from yoga to distance running
  • I own 2 pairs of these Lululemon running shorts and I firmly believe they're worth the $58 price — they never ride up and they have pockets for my essentials

Runner-Up: Alo Yoga

Alo Yoga is responsible for a few cult-favorite products worth writing home about — namely, its leggings. But, Lululemon is stronger across the board and has a much wider range of products that warrant the splurge.

Alo Yoga almost cinched the top splurge-worthy spot based on its leggings alone. It also has a greater size range (Lululemon is 0-14, Alo is 00-18) but, ultimately, Lululemon has a better variety of options and we'd recommend a greater percentage of Lululemon items for the price. Even so, we're still likely to splurge on Alo here and there after having success with its leggings.

What to buy:

Read more about Alo Yoga:

  • We put Alo Yoga's popular Airlift leggings to the test — after months of wearing and washing our pairs, we still think they're some of the best out there
  • 18 pairs of workout leggings we swear by for everything from yoga to distance running

The best gender-inclusive athleisure brand

Muttonhead athleisure is gender-neutral and inclusive of a variety of different body shapes and sizes. Its styles are cozy and versatile.

Muttonhead is a Toronto-based brand that's entirely gender-neutral and designed to accommodate a wide variety of body types. It's home to many versatile and casual basics — including its cult-favorite Camping Hoodie and sweatpants. 

It's worth noting that, while everything made by the Muttonhead brand is gender-neutral, the other brands they carry do offer gendered clothing and may not be tailored as inclusively. If you'd rather stick to the Muttonhead clothing exclusively, you can sort by brand.

What to buy: 

 

Read more about Muttonhead:

  • The best gender-inclusive clothing you can buy

The best size-inclusive athleisure brand

Universal Standard athleisure comes in sizes 00-40, and styles are just as fashion-forward as they are comfortable. We also appreciate the company's generous exchange policy due to weight fluctuation. 

Universal Standard is the place to go for cool, high-quality closet staples available in sizes 00-40. They also tend to offer items in regular, tall, and petite lengths. We love the company's clothes because they're comfortable and flattering — but we're equally excited about its commitment to making clothes for more people than the industry currently serves, especially since the average American woman is between size 16 to 18.

If you buy a piece from the core collection and, in the future, it no longer fits due to size fluctuation, the company has a Universal Fit Liberty policy that lets you replace it with your new size, within a year of purchase, free of charge. 

What to buy: 

 

Read more about Universal Standard:

  • The best leggings for work
  • 7 women tried Universal Standard's size-inclusive line of jeans that goes from 00 to 40 — here's the verdict
  • Women's clothing company Universal Standard has launched an inclusive line of basics offered in sizes 00 to 40

The best eco-friendly athleisure brand

Girlfriend Collective uses recycled materials to create comfortable, versatile athleisure in a variety of colors and sizes. But, the company is prone to low stock. 

Girlfriend Collective has some of the best athleisure leggings we've ever tried, and we appreciate the brand's color variety, relatively low price points, and inclusive size range. It's also a huge perk that the company prioritizes sustainability in its materials and processes. 

Its packaging is 100% recyclable, its compression leggings are made of 79% recycled polyester from 25 post-consumer water bottles, and its Cupro tees are made from 100% cupro, a fiber made from the waste of the cotton industry. The latter yarn is made in a zero-waste, zero-emission facility in Japan and then constructed at an SA8000-certified factory in Hanoi. And, while Cupro saves a reported 682 gallons of water compared to cotton, the company also pledges to donate 10% of its net profits to Charity Water to offset any water usage that may occur during production. You can read more on the company's eco-friendly practices here.

We also appreciate that Girlfriend Collective currently offers versatility in its colors — 14 total (five essential, and nine limited-edition) — and sizing (it's available in three inseam lengths and sizes XXS-6XL) in its bestselling leggings.

However, slow fashion that's also in high demand can lead to stock outages, and Girlfriend Collective doesn't always have what we want available. We also wish there was a larger selection.

What to buy: 

Read more about Girlfriend Collective:

  • The internet can't stop talking about these leggings made of recycled water bottles — and now I understand why
  • The athleisure startup that once gave away free leggings over the internet is now making the most comfortable workout shirts — they breathe like cotton but feel like silk
  • 18 pairs of workout leggings we swear by for everything from yoga to distance running

The best office-appropriate athleisure brand

ADAY's athleisure is the sort of sleek, deceptively comfortable clothing that can transition from the couch to the office if the need arises. We also appreciate the brand's commitment to utilizing sustainable materials. 

ADAY makes sleek, technical, multipurpose clothes and often with sustainable materials. Most ADAY clothes have a resume that includes four-way stretch, water- and wrinkle-resistance, machine-washability, and UV protection. If you're looking for a good place to start, its Waste Nothing Jacket can be worn as a shirt or jacket and repurposes 41 recycled plastic bottles. 

You can expect to pay $100-150 per item, but, in our experience, ADAY is worth the investment for its versatility, comfort, and the perks of innovative materials.

What to buy: 

 

Read more about ADAY:

  • The best leggings you can wear to work
  • 9 companies you didn't know use recycled water bottles in their products — from little-known startups to giants like Nike and Adidas

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