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Legging vs Yoga Pants: What is the Difference?

Leggings and yoga pants lead the way as some of the most popular forms of athleisure wear in today’s culture. Visit Walmart or Target and count how many people walk past wearing skin-tight leggings and a sweater or t-shirt! But have you ever compared leggings vs yoga pants to find out if there is any difference between these types of comfort fashion?

The main difference between leggings and yoga pants is that yoga pants contain durable athletic fabric and leggings contain soft material meant for everyday use. Yoga pants also come in many cuts and styles and leggings always have a skintight shape. Yoga pants cost much more than everyday leggings as well.

In this article, you will learn the key differences between yoga pants and leggings. You will get answers to the big questions, such as if you can wear leggings in place of pants. Finally, you will find tips for discovering the best yoga pants!

Legging vs Yoga Pants

Leggings vs Yoga Pants: Key Points

Check out this quick overview to get an idea of the key differences between leggings and yoga pants!

LeggingsYoga Pants
StyleSkin-tight leg covering ending at knee or ankle. Usually has a high, elastic waist.Available in multiple styles.
MaterialUsually a cotton knit containing spandex.Usually high-performance nylon or polyester blended with spandex or Lycra.
DurabilityNot suited for heavy wear and tear.Very durable and flexible for heavy wear.
ComfortVery soft and comfortable due to typical high cotton content.Comfortable and form-fitting, but not as soft.
CostUsually cheaper.Usually more expensive.
Intended UseEvery day wear at home or for leisurely public wear.Athletic activities such as yoga or hiking.
Popular BrandsVictoria’s Secret, Old Navy, pretty much any clothing line.Lululemon, Alo, Athleta.

What are Yoga Pants?

Heathyoga Women's Yoga Pants Leggings with Pockets for Women High Waist Yoga Pants with Pockets Workout Leggings TightsYoga pants come in several different styles, but all contain stretchy fabric intended for a wide range of movements. The most common type of yoga pants is a skin-tight legging style containing a moisture-wicking sports fabric like polyester or nylon. Other popular styles of yoga pants include bootcut and flared knit yoga pants and knee-length leggings, usually made out of four-way stretch fabric.

While yoga has existed for thousands of years as a religious and meditative practice, it did not find mass popularity in the United States until the 1980s and 90s. Then yoga studios began to spring up in every town and city.

At the time, jeans comprised the main leisure clothing in America. But jeans don’t handle a downward-facing dog pose very well, let alone a monkey split pose or a lizard lunge!

In 1998, the founder of Lululemon saw this void in the clothing market and launched a line of stretchy pants for the yoga studio. These early yoga pants contained basic stretchy nylon knit, though the company has since offered many high-tech sports fabric alternatives.

Today, athleisure forms a huge part of the clothing industry. You can find yoga pants for sale from pricey brands like the original Lululemon to more affordable options at Walmart and TJMaxx.

What do today’s yoga pants look like? Well, they come in many different styles, all designed for ease of movement. These might look like lightweight bootcut sweatpants or thick-but-flexible leggings.

Real yoga pants will always contain super-flexible, durable fabric as well. Materials often used include polyester, nylon, cotton, and some kind of spandex or elastane. Like most sportswear these days, you can also find yoga pants that highlight certain areas like moisture-wicking to keep you cool and dry.

What are Leggings?

No nonsense Classic Leggings-Jeggings for Women with Real Back Pockets, High Waisted Stretch Jeans, Light Denim, XX-LargeLeggings are footless, opaque tights, usually with a high waist. They serve as casual wear at home, on the street, or around the town. They often contain thin and lightweight fabric rather than more expensive sportswear fabrics.

While people have worn tights and hosiery of various types for centuries, thick pant-like tights with no feet first saw use as warm undergarments. These long-john-style garments did not look very nice, but they kept people warm!

Leggings probably got their footing in modern fashion from Audrey Hepburn, who introduced the slim-legged cigarette pant to the world. After the invention of spandex and Lycra in the 1960s, the 1970s saw an explosion of colorful fashions, including a stretchy bootcut pant with a high waistband made popular for disco dancing. Movie stars like Debbie Harris and Olivia Newton-John made these stretchy pants extremely fashionable.

In the 1980s, Madonna made leggings even edgier by wearing skin-tight leather pants. Around this time, people also began to wear leggings during exercise, especially after Jane Fonda used them for her TV aerobics classes.

The 1990s sort of fizzled out with the unfortunate stirrup leggings trend, but the 2000s saw a massive return of leggings as everyday leisurewear.

Today, most streetwear leggings have a high waist, hug the skin, and end either at the knee or the ankle. Faux leather remains popular as a material, as does any lightweight knit material, including nylon, polyester, or cotton.

Fashion trends come and go, but the 2020s feature leggings in all kinds of stylish ensembles. The fall look of leggings, sweaters and tall boots resurge every year in the colder seasons, while the leggings and t-shirt or crop top look has hit an all-time high with teens!

That said, groups like schools and business places do not always approve of the use of leggings in place of pants, as you will find out later in this article!

What’s the Difference Between Leggings and Yoga Pants?

Difference Between Leggings and Yoga Pants

The biggest difference between leggings and yoga pants is that yoga pants come in many styles and often feature more stretchy fabric than leggings, which only come in one style.

That said, the extreme popularity of athleisure wear has led to lots of crossover between yoga pants and leggings today. For example, some brands sell “sports leggings,” which are leggings made out of a high-performance material with moisture-wicking or scent control ability. For all intents and purposes, this is the same thing as yoga pants!


Leggings, by definition, cling to the leg all the way down, though they can end either below the knee or at the ankle. Yoga pants may come in a loose boot-cut style as well as the familiar footless tight version.

Technically, many yoga pants are a specific type of leggings. They usually contain fancier and more expensive fabric than the average streetwear leggings. They are designed for movement rather than for lazing around the house!

Leggings do have lots of variation in style in terms of cut-outs, lace appliques, buckles, bows, and pretty much any color you can imagine! They serve a much more decorative purpose than functional yoga pants.

Type of Material

Leggings and yoga pants both contain some type of stretchy material, though yoga pants typically feature a slightly thicker and more durable material than leggings. Cotton knit blended with spandex, polyester knits, and nylon knits all function in leggings and yoga pants.

Yoga pants often feature four-way stretch material or high-performance sports material as well. This material stretches easily for flexible movement and has great elasticity to hold its shape even after days of yoga classes, hiking, or jogging!

Leggings can also contain special fabrics such as faux stretch leather or stretch denim in jeggings. Typically, normal leggings use a soft and very thin form of knit fabric. This type of material feels nice against your skin but may not hold up to intense movement or prolonged activity.


Most of the time, yoga pants have much greater durability than regular leggings. As with any type of clothing, the quality and type of material used makes a difference, though.

Cotton yoga pants do not hold up as well to prolonged use as yoga pants made out of high-performance sports fabrics. Also, some regular leggings like jeggings may have excellent durability due to the tougher nature of their denim fabric!

In general, though, if you compare yoga pants made out of athletic fabric to leggings made out of jersey knit, the yoga pants will last a lot longer and have better elasticity over that time span.


Regular leggings often feel more comfortable than yoga pants, though this depends on many factors.

First, yoga pants and leggings can both feature soft, lightweight cotton knit. You see this a lot in boot-cut yoga pants, for example. In this case, there is no difference in comfort because the same fabric gets used in both types of legwear!

Typically, though, you see a much stretchier and thicker fabric used in yoga pants. This holds up well as you flow from mountain pose to tree pose, but it is not as soft as typical regular legging material.


Yoga pants often cost a lot more than regular leggings. In general, athletic wear tends to have a higher cost than casual wear because of the high-performance materials used in sportswear. Of course, this depends a lot on the brand!

You can find high-end brands selling both leggings and yoga pants that cost a small fortune these days. It’s not uncommon for popular brands to sell yoga pants for $100.

More generic yoga pants often come in around $20, though. That said, generic leggings often cost as little as $10 due to the less expensive fabric used in their construction.

Intended Use

Leggings and yoga pants have distinct intended uses because yoga pants are designed to wear while performing yoga and leggings can be worn in a wide range of settings.

That said, regular leggings may not survive a yoga session. Certain seams in the seat area might give out the first time you try to lunge forward on your yoga mat!

It’s also true that certain leggings and yoga pants have specific uses, as well. For example, you probably do not want to try heated yoga while wearing cotton yoga pants. Instead, you will want to wear moisture-wicking polyester or nylon for this activity.

Likewise, you can purchase special hiking leggings that come with pockets for your phone and more durable material to survive the outdoors. These might not feel as comfy around the house, but they will hold up much better on the trail!

Popular Brands

Many big-name clothing brands sell both yoga pants and regular leggings. Some of the most popular of these include:

  • Lululemon: this iconic brand continues to provide some of the most sought-after yoga pants on the market. They do also sell many casual-wear leggings as well!
  • Athleta: This company offers a wide range of excellent sportswear, including yoga pants. Plus, the company focuses on fair trade and on sending a feminist message to its consumers!
  • Alo: promoted by some celebrities, this brand offers a range of activewear clothing, including yoga pants.
  • Victoria’s Secret: this sexy brand offers a wide range of leggings in their loungewear line.
  • Old Navy: this affordable brand offers comfortable day wear leggings as well as a good selection of sportswear yoga pants.

Leggings Vs Pants

SATINA High Waisted Leggings with Pockets for Women - Workout Leggings for Regular & Plus Size Women - Burgundy Leggings Women - Yoga Leggings for Women |3 Inch Waistband (Plus Size, Burgundy)The main difference between leggings and pants is that pants come in all kinds of styles, while leggings always have a skin-tight fit. Plus, pants may contain elastic, but leggings pretty much always contain elastic fibers to provide that trademark tight fit.

Here’s where things get confusing, though: Modern fashion also offers types of leggings that look very much like more traditional pants. Consider jeggings, for example. Are they jeans or leggings?

On top of that, you can also find a growing trend for business-casual pants made out of thick double knit material shaped in that tight legging style!

But the big question you probably want answered is, “Is it ok to wear yoga pants in public?” The answer depends on many factors, including your personal comfort level.

Current fashion trends make replacing traditional pants with skin-tight leggings totally acceptable in many venues.

Schools often do not allow students to wear leggings to class, as this type of clothing looks so informal. Some business places also enforce a dress code that excludes leggings.

In general, you probably want to consider how formal or informal the setting will be before you choose to wear leggings.

Can You Wear Yoga Pants as Leggings?

You can wear yoga pants as leggings, but you may find them less soft and comfortable for everyday wear. Technically, yoga pants are a type of legging, so they will often look just like regular leggings from the outside!

The main difference lies in the type of material used. You may find that yoga pants have a firmer, more constricting waistband than many regular leggings. The high-performance fabric used in yoga pants may feel a little scratchy or stiff in comparison to regular leggings, as well.

Then again, some brands like Alo promote yoga pants with stylish cutouts and fun colors meant to transition from the yoga studio to the street, so you can find yoga pants that feel comfortable in both settings!

Yoga Pants Vs Leggings Vs Tights

Hue Women's Super Opaque Tights with Control Top, Black, 2Yoga pants, leggings, and tights all serve different purposes and have slightly varied appearances.

Yoga pants can come in multiple styles, including a skin-tight legging style and a loose bootcut style. They usually contain moisture-wicking sports performance fabric and have strong elasticity. These pants work well for lots of active movement.

Leggings can feature many different fabrics, colors, and decorations but always cling to the leg from the waist all the way down. They do not have feet and are (at least almost always!) not see-through. This type of legwear often serves as a trendy alternative to traditional pants.

Tights, on the other hand, almost always have feet, though they also conform to the shape of the leg from the waist all the way down. They have high elasticity and are often transparent, though not always. Tights may contain a thin knit material blended with elastic but often feature a high percentage of lycra or spandex.

Unlike both yoga pants and leggings, tights do not get worn in place of pants. They require a dress or long shirt draped over the top portion of the leg.

Can You Wear Yoga Pants at the Gym?

You can wear yoga pants at the gym. In fact, this kind of activity is exactly what yoga pants work best for! Most yoga pants brands offer cooling and moisture-wicking fabric that breathes well and moves sweat away from your skin.

As a bonus, the tight, elastic nature of yoga pants often makes you feel better about the shape of your body while you work out!

Regular leggings, on the other hand, may not survive an intense workout. If you plan to jog lightly on the treadmill for a while, though, you should be fine!

Workout Leggings vs Regular Leggings

Workout Leggings vs Regular Leggings

The main difference between workout leggings and regular leggings is that regular leggings are softer and looser than workout leggings.

Actually, “workout leggings” are the same thing as yoga pants, just under a different name! Many brands put their own spin on things in a successful effort to make yoga pants popular for many activities besides just doing yoga. You will see workout leggings, hiking leggings, athletic leggings, and sportswear leggings promoted by many brands today.

Another factor to consider when comparing workout leggings to regular leggings is how they look when you move. Let’s be honest here–even though regular leggings use opaque material, they have such soft, thin fabric that you can pretty much see everything through them! You will want to keep that thin material in mind before you wear regular leggings to the gym for sure!

Regular leggings often contain more cotton than workout leggings. This makes them super soft and cozy but less suited to sweaty activities. They also do not typically contain as much elastic as workout leggings. This means they can stretch out or sag during active moments.

Pilates Pants Vs Yoga Pants

Except for the name, you will not find any big differences between pilates pants and yoga pants.

Pilates is another popular form of exercise that focuses on developing core strength. Like yoga, this practice requires a lot of flexibility and a wide range of movement. This means that pilates practitioners need stretchy, durable clothes, just like yogis!

Yoga has much broader popularity around the world than pilates at this time. This means that you can find more brands selling yoga pants than pilates pants. In fact, many style experts suggest wearing yoga pants as you do pilates for this reason.

Best Yoga Pants

While many clothing brands offer excellent yoga pants, these three popular items will give you an idea of the options available to you!

Best Yoga Pants with Pockets

Heathyoga Women's Yoga Pants Leggings with Pockets for Women High Waist Yoga Pants with Pockets Workout Leggings Tights Light BlueThese Heathyoga ankle-length yoga pants come in a remarkable 30 different colors. Plus, of course, they offer two pockets for convenient phone storage during your workout or yoga class!

Like most legging-style yoga pants, they come with a high, firm elastic waist to keep you looking slim as well.

Most importantly, these pants feature 25% spandex for extra-strong elasticity.

They use four-way stretch technology as well and provide excellent moisture-wicking ability.

Yoga Pants That Aren’t Leggings

Spalding Women's Bootleg Pant, Navy Blazer, MediumThis comfortable pair of Spalding bootcut yoga pants will flow with every movement during your yoga class.

These pants feature a high waist and loose legs flaring out into a delicate bootcut at the ankle.

These pants contain 92% light cotton knit and 8% spandex to enable flexibility.

The pants provide a hint of compression through the waist and seat as well for a stylish shape.


The biggest difference between leggings and yoga pants is that yoga pants often contain high-performance sports fabric suited to activewear. Leggings contain softer material for everyday wear. The expensive fabric used to make yoga pants often means that these pants cost more than regular leggings.

Another difference is that yoga pants can have different cuts, while leggings always come as clinging leg coverings. Opinions differ on when it is appropriate to wear yoga pants or leggings in public. Current fashion trends make athleisure clothing very popular, though!

Do you have a favorite pair of yoga or leggings? What brand do you like best? Leave a comment below to let us know!