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The Most Important Difference Between Leggings And Yoga Pants

Yoga pants and leggings ultimately look pretty similar so what’s the difference? Well, yoga pants are considered fitness or activewear while leggings are designed to wear during anything but exercise. However, with improvements in materials and the increase in manufacturers, the line has blurred leading most of us to ask ourselves, “What’s the difference between legging and yoga pants?”.  

In short, the difference between leggings and yoga pants is that yoga pants are meant for athletics while leggings are not specifically designed for this purpose and may be too thin to wear during fitness activities. Additionally, yoga pants are not always tights. They come as sweatpants, wide-leg yoga pants, and capris while leggings are always skin-tight.

Below I’ll cover more of the major differences between them, what each one’s for, and some of the different styles.  

Let’s get right to it…

The Full Story Of Leggings

woman wearing leggings

Leggings were originally designed as a way to fight the cold weather. They were something that was to be worn under your pants as an added layer to help you stay warm during cold winters similar to long johns. Hence why leggings are all skin-tight. They also were not stylish like they are now because nobody really saw them. The most common materials used for leggings are lycra, polyester, cotton with spandex, and nylon. 

Nowadays, there are also “yoga leggings” which are yoga pants but they’re skin-tight like leggings and made from a thicker material that’s designed for athletics. If you’ve ever seen someone doing squats in normal cheap leggings, you quickly realized that they weren’t designed for workouts. Leggings become see-through when they stretch and you can clearly see their underwear. A quality pair of yoga pants won’t do that to you. 

Advantages Of Leggings

The main advantage of leggings is that they’re usually more affordable than yoga pants. This is because they’re made from thinner materials and they don’t need to withstand the same demands that workout pants do. 

They’re also available in a wide variety of styles, patterns, colors, materials, etc. and you can pick up a cheap pair from a store like Cotton On for about ten bucks. So they’re budget-friendly and an easy way to add variety to your wardrobe. 

Another perk is that they’re comfortable. They’re stretchy, flattering, and comfier than jeans which makes them a popular choice. 

Disadvantages of leggings 

Like I was saying before, leggings are cheaper and thinner than yoga pants. So if you’re thinking you’ll wear leggings to the gym because those lululemon’s cost too much, I might reconsider. The thinner material of leggings doesn’t hold up well when stretched and shows you but and underwear – especially under those bright gym lights. 

Further, the waistband on leggings isn’t designed for athletics so they have a tendency of folding over rather than staying in place while you work out. These aren’t disadvantages to everyday wear though. When it comes to wearing them just around during the day, there’s no downside. They’re comfortable, cheap and look great.  

Types of Leggings Based on the Material

Cotton Leggings

These are often found at your general store like Cotton On, Macy’s, Forever 21, etc. They’re widely available and made from a combination of cotton with spandex for stretch. The benefits are that they’re affordable and come in a million styles. The downside is that they’re usually thinner and they can lose shape over time. 

Faux Leather

These are like a comfortable pair of leather pants. They have the same look of leather but they’re usually stretchy and a lot more breathable/comfortable than leather pants. They’re more expensive than typical leggings but worth the investment. With these, you can do a night on the town in comfort without sacrificing style. 


Polyester leggings are a little higher in quality. They’re stretchy, water-resistant, and sweat-wicking so they work as a pair of pants for running or a similar activity. However, these tend to smell for some reason so find a blended material if you go this route. 


These are most popular in places with cold winters. They’re made to help you stay warm, they’re super comfortable and look nice. However, they usually cost more than a pair of cotton leggings. 


Nylon is one of the most popular fabrics for leggings. It’s stretchy, durable, doesn’t wrinkle, and holds up well. They do have a tendency of shrinking when you wash them and fabric softeners can damage the nylon fibers so they require slightly more care. 

Legging Length Options

Leggings are all tights but they do come in different lengths. These include waist to ankle or full-length which are the most common. Then there are calf-length leggings that extend to your calf (capris). There are also the stirrup style that goes under the heel and footed leggings which look just like tights (but they’re not). 

Our Favorite Brands For Leggings

Nearly every clothing company offers a line of leggings these days so it can be hard to pick. That being said, the ones we have here are our top choices and have proven to be reliable: 

Yoga Pants Are Better (Sometimes)

woman doing yoga in black yoga pants

Yoga pants are better for fitness and if you’re plus-sized and want something that won’t stretch out or become see-through. What makes yoga pants great is that they’re double material in many areas and sweat-wicking which helps you regulate temperature. 

And if you’re worried about the styles, don’t be. Most athletic companies have expanded their yoga pant styles to match the fashion demands of today’s consumers. They realize that many of us want to look like we do yoga, but don’t actually do it – and that’s okay. 

Now the big companies like Lululemon, Alo Yoga, JyLab, Nike, etc. all make fashionable yoga pants for everyday wear. The worlds of leggings and yoga pants have merged and everyone’s better for it. 


The primary advantages are that yoga pants stay in place and don’t become see-through when you bend over. Further, they’re often more comfortable than leggings because they’re built to hold their shape under any conditions. 

And if you’re wearing them to workout, they have a larger/thicker waistband that won’t fold over but still bends and flexes so it’s not uncomfortable. 


The main disadvantage of yoga pants is the price. They’re more expensive in most cases but you get what you pay for and they almost always last significantly longer than a pair of leggings. Additionally, if I’m reaching for disadvantages, there may not be as many styles or fabrics available. 

Yoga Pant Styles

Yoga pants come in more styles than leggings. There are yoga pant leggings which are the ones you see most often. Then there are yoga sweatpants, wide-leg yoga pants, and yoga capris. There are also different lengths like cropped, ankle-length, and booty length. 

Our Favorite Brands Of Yoga Pants

There’s no shortage of brands offering yoga pants but they can be pricey and you want to make sure you’re investing in top quality products. With that said, below are a few of our top choices: 

Fashion Leggings vs Activewear Leggings vs Yoga Pants

Fashion Leggings

american flag fashion leggings

These are made from breathable fabric that’s thinner and stretchy. They’re too thin to wear without a longer shirt or sweater. Because they’re leggings, they’re skin tight and come in many colors and styles. They’re also generally pretty affordable and an easy way to spice up your wardrobe with comfortable options. 

Activewear Leggings

asian woman wearing grey athletic pants

These are a hybrid of yoga pants and leggings. They’re made for fitness activities so they’re made from a thicker material that won’t become see-through or sheer. They come in all kinds of styles and are slightly more affordable but sometimes comparable in price to yoga pants. 

Yoga Pants 

young woman doing yoga in white yoga pants

Made from thick material that’s sweat-wicking and doesn’t warp when you exercise. They’re available in a wide variety of cuts, colors, and designs. They’re typically a little more expensive but a good pair can last you many years depending on how often you wear them. 


I have to say that the difference between leggings and yoga pants is actually pretty substantial. They’re different in materials, styles, price, and functionality. So while they may look the same when wearing them, when and where you wear them is totally different. 

In short, if you want pants for fitness, get yoga pants or activewear leggings. But if you want an affordable and comfortable option for every daywear, leggings can do the trick. 

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