Whether you’re training for a couch to 5k or you’re a seasoned runner, one key piece of kit you’ll need - especially in the colder months - is a pair of running tights or leggings. Yet with so many different styles, not to mention a choice of technical fabrics, to choose from it can be hard to know where to start.

Mel Bound, founder of This Mum Runs, a running community with thousands of members around the UK says, “The number one thing we hear from our runners is they want leggings with a good drawstring, so they are secure and won’t be slipping down during a run.”

If you don’t like wearing a running belt, you’ll also need pockets in your leggings big enough for your phone and keys. Something else to consider is the thickness of the material (if the lycra is too thin, the leggings could be see through) and also whether they are sweat wicking, drawing moisture away from your body: this will help you avoid sweat marks as you run.

If you’re planning on running longer distances Mel says, “It’s definitely worth buying tights made from compression lycra. This helps the circulation in your legs and so helps with your endurance and your recovery time afterwards.”

Our team of testers put the leggings through their paces on a series of runs outdoors and in the gym, covering more than 120 miles. We judged them based on comfort, practicality and appearance, along with any other special features they had. Here's our top pick of the best.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent. 

Tikiboo Leggings: £36.99, Tikiboo

The colourful and quirky range of Tikiboo tights (prints include unicorns and skulls) were a big hit with our testers. As well as being super bright, our testers agreed the leggings were incredibly comfortable thanks to the 360-degree stretch lycra. They also have flat seams, meaning no stitching to chafe your legs while you run. One tester said she felt like she was running in silk tights they were so smooth.

Another bonus is the hidden drawstring around your waist which means there’s no chance of the leggings riding down mid-run. With a pocket on the back big enough for your phone and keys, they really do tick every box whether you’re a serious or casual runner. No surprise they won gold in the best female clothing category at last year’s National Running Awards.

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SIXPAD Training Tights: £135, SIXPAD

These were the most expensive running tights we tested but, if you’re a serious runner, our testers agreed they’re worth every penny. The innovative fabric from the Japanese brand puts pressure on your muscles as you move. And according to SIXPAD’s website, this means your hamstring muscle activity level is increased by about 1.3 times compared to when you’re not wearing the tights.

Our testers agreed they were incredible to run in, keeping your legs feeling light and springy even on longer runs. (One tester felt so energised in the tights she doubled her training session) The leggings stayed in place during each run with no riding down and they were really smooth with no irritating seams. A big spend but totally worth it.

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ILU Dream Spin Leggings: £47, ILU Fitwear

These ILU leggings were a serious contender for the top spot. They have a high-rise foldable waistband, so no need to pull up the leggings while you’re running. Made from technical fabric that wicks away your sweat, our testers agreed they were great on everything from road to treadmill runs. They also have soft seams, so no chafing no matter how long your run. The ILU leggings are machine washable which is a bonus if you are a regular runner and don’t want the hassle of handwashing them like some of the others we tested. There’s no pocket for your keys but they were so comfortable, our testers didn’t care.

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Fabletics Mila Pocket Capri leggings: £57, Fabletics

If you like running with your phone – but don’t want to wear a running belt – these Fabletics leggings are a good option. They have pockets on the side of both legs big enough to fit your phone. Our testers were impressed with the flattering design of the leggings: they are made from Fabletics PowerHold compression fabric which basically holds everything in. Not only do they look good, they are also really comfortable to run in. The high waist design means they stayed up on all our runners – both on the road and in the gym.

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Audacia London Star Print Leggings: £85, Audacia London

Our testers all loved the Audacia London leggings. One tried them on a cold morning run and said her muscles warmed up really quickly thanks to the compression lycra material. The star design on the leggings was a real hit and they have an amazing ‘bum lift’ effect which makes them incredibly flattering to wear. There’s also a hidden inner lining on the back of the leggings meaning there’s no chance of the material thinning on your glutes and showing off the colour of your pants. A hidden drawstring round the waist also means they stay comfortably in place without any danger of slipping down.

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Roxy Spy Game Technical leggings: £45, Roxy

The Roxy leggings are a good choice for treadmill or road running, with a zippable key fob and sweat-wicking fabric. Our testers also liked the mesh on the back of the knees which provided more ventilation (especially useful in the gym and in warmer weather). Again, the leggings stayed in place during each run and were chafe-free thanks to the flatlock seams.

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CEP Run 3.0 Compression Tights: £109.99, CEP Sports

Another contender for serious runners are the CEP tights. You need to measure your calf and thighs before ordering to get the perfect fit. And the compression fabric is designed to improve your circulation, giving your legs more endurance when you run. Our testers certainly enjoyed running in them, saying their legs felt light and no signs of heaviness even on longer runs. They are the second priciest of the leggings we tested, but definitely worth the investment if you’re a regular runner.

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Boody Active Full Leggings: £49.95, Boody

Our testers loved how soft these Boody leggings were. Made from bamboo fabric with no rubbing or chafing, they are ideal if you have sensitive skin. The material is also great for wicking sweat away from your body during even the longest of runs. The only downside is one of our testers found the leggings slid down during her run, but that might have been down to the sizing. On the plus side, they have a have a handy key pocket in the waistband for your keys.

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New Balance High Rise Transform Pocket Tight: £70, New Balance

These New Balance leggings scored really highly with our testers. Incredibly comfortable, machine-washable and with two handy side pockets for your keys and phone, they are ideal for casual or serious runners. Our testers loved the mesh on the waistband and legs which added ventilation mid-run and the fabric also wicks sweat away from your body. Not to mention they are incredibly flattering. A bit pricey but our testers felt they were worth it.

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Ellesse Sport Glaze Leggings: £30, Ellesse

Our testers were impressed with the look of these Ellesse leggings – they’re really flattering and scored lots of compliments in the gym. While they look great, they are probably better suited to casual runners covering shorter distances rather than serious marathon runners. There’s no pocket for keys or phone so you’d need to wear with a running belt if you’re running outdoors.

They didn’t ride down but the feel of the mesh inserts took a bit of getting used to according to one of our testers. However on the plus side they are among the cheapest of the leggings we tested and, our testers agreed, good value.

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Decathlon Kalenji Kiprun Women’s Running Compress Tights: £19.99, Decathlon

We think these running leggings are an absolute bargain. They are really practical, with four handy pockets for everything from your phone and keys to your water bottle. There’s also a drawstring to keep the leggings nice and secure round your waist. We also loved the zips on the ankles which not only gave added ventilation, they also made the leggings really easy to get on – and take off – even when covered in mud from a particularly boggy trail run.

Not only is the fabric moisture-wicking, it also puts pressure on different parts of your tights to help with muscle fatigue when you’re running. A great buy at a fantastic price.

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LaVostra Nimbleactive Lauren 7/8 Jungle Leaf Tights: £69, LaVostra

These leggings have serious environmental credentials: they’re made from recycled plastic bottles and spandex. Our testers loved the pattern and all agreed the supersoft lycra feels amazing against your skin during a run. There’s also a hidden pocket on the waistband for your keys, scoring another win in terms of practicality. There’s no drawstring but the leggings stayed nicely in place.

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Lucy Locket Loves Active Leggings: £30, Locket Loves

The founder of Lucy Locket Loves promotes body positivity, and the activewear is available in sizes 6 to 24. The leggings are not for shy and retiring runners – patterns include police boxes, turtles and butterflies. Our testers loved how soft the fabric was and there was no chafing. A high waist design also means the leggings stay put during a run. There’s a zip pocket on the back of the leggings big enough for a large phone.

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Speedo Stormza H20 Active Capri pants: £27, Speedo

These running tights are perfect if you’re contemplating a triathlon – Speedo’s H20 range is designed to be used for exercise in and out of the water. Made from recycled material including abandoned fishing nets, they’ve got great environmental credentials. Our testers were impressed with the comfort of the leggings: there’s no drawstring but they didn’t slip down. And even though they aren’t full length, the hems stayed in place and didn’t ride up.

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Anita Active Sports Massage Tights: £90, Claire Woodall

These running tights are totally different to the others we tested. The fabric has tiny bumps on the inside – three dimensional nubs to give them their technical name – which is designed to massage and tone your legs as you wear them. While the feel of the sweat-wicking fabric takes a bit of getting used to, our testers agreed their legs felt lighter during their runs. The company has won an international design award for the leggings which are super flattering and come in a choice of black or (if you’re feeling brave) fuscia. There’s no drawstring but they stay firmly in place during a run.

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The verdict: Running tights

Both the Tikiboo and SIXPAD leggings scored top marks with our testers. For a more budget-friendly option that sees you getting a lot of kit for your cash, you can’t go wrong with the Decathlon Kalenji Kiprun Women’s Running Compress Tights.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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