Leggings vs. Yoga Pants (Differences Explained)

sportive slim people in sportswear

The “leggings are not pants” debate has been long over, and we can now wear leggings to work and the coffee shop in peace. Now that leggings are trendy, commonplace, and appropriate for any outing, there is one question that remains unanswered. What is the difference between leggings and yoga pants?

The biggest difference between leggings and yoga pants is the fabric. Typically, fashion leggings are a cotton blend. Usually made out of dry-fit material, yoga pants are ideal for working out. Athleisure wear is popular among celebrities and non-famous people alike, and the industry is booming

With athletic clothing becoming so popular as casual wear, it may be difficult to distinguish what is appropriate and not when you are getting dressed. Below, we will go over some of the main differences between yoga pants and leggings. We will also distinguish between the different types of leggings. 

Are Yoga Pants and Leggings the Same?

When you look up yoga pants and leggings in your favorite online store, they may look pretty much the same. Don’t be fooled, though. Leggings and yoga pants are very similar, but there are a few distinctions between the two. 

Yoga pants and leggings are not the same, as the fabric composition of your leggings will typically answer this question. Yoga pants have athletic fabric and flares at the bottom. Leggings are made from athletic material, such as polyester or spandex, but are skin tight from top to bottom. 

Leggings and yoga pants are definitely similar, so it may be hard to tell the difference. the two. The difference will be important though, especially if you are going on a hike or to a fitness class. 

Let’s look at the main differences between leggings and yoga pants.

Yoga Pants

They are breathable with athletic fabrics and are worn for athletic activities. Yoga pants typically have flared bottoms but come in various styles, such as: 

woman wearing tight gray pants leggings
  • Yoga pants
  • Legging fit
  • Capri yoga pants
  • Sweat pants
  • Yoga shorts


If you choose between leggings and yoga pants, it may depend greatly on the activity you intend to do. Now that leggings are so popular, you can find athletic leggings and fashion leggings pretty easily. 

The qualities of leggings include:

  • Always skin tight from top to bottom. 
  • Fashion leggings are typically made of a thin cotton blend not ideal for physical activity.,
  • They are made of polyester or other breathable fabrics. 
  • You can wear them under clothing in the place of tights or pantyhose

What Are Yoga Pants?

Yoga pants are not just for yoga. The “inventor” of yoga pants got inspired during a yoga class, and that is where they got their name. 

Yoga pants are typically made of breathable, thick fabric for physical activity. They are looser on the bottom than they are on the top. Depending on the activity and your personal preference, it may be easier to bend around in. 

The thick material is ideal for doing activities like yoga, where stretching and movement may make the fabric stretch. 

Though they typically come in a flare-legged fashion, yoga pants are not exclusive to this style. They also come as sweatpants, leggings, and capris. The main difference between yoga pants and leggings or other bottom wear is the thick, breathable fabric that they are made of.

Yoga pants may be ideal for yoga or other athletic activity because they do not become see-through when they stretch out. It is hard to focus on your downward dog when you are worried about the people behind you seeing straight through to your underwear, so they also guarantee a certain peace of mind. 

Yoga pants have been popular since the early 1990s, becoming popular again in the 2010s with the younger crowd. Since Y2k fashion has become all the rage with Gen-Z, these “flared leggings” have come back in full force. 

What Are Leggings?

Leggings are commonplace and are at most retail stores. Adults, teens, the elderly, and kids alike wear leggings. 

Leggings are skin-tight and typically dress from waist to ankles. There are fashion leggings and athletic leggings, and different fabrics compose both. Fashion leggings and athletic leggings both have different purposes. Workout leggings are typically worn to sweat and stretch.

In contrast, fashion leggings generally are worn as part of an outfit for daily activity. 

Leggings, like yoga pants, have been around for nearly a century. They have been used for fashion and physical activity since before the 1970s. In recent years, leggings have caused quite a stir. 

A great debate about leggings occurred when society asked: are leggings pants? As dramatic as it sounds, leggings caused a bit of controversy in some circles when women began wearing them as pants. 

Luckily, the debate is less typical now, and women commonly wear leggings as leisurewear. You can even find leggings for men now, such as the Willit Men’s Active Yoga Leggings.  

What Is the Difference Between Workout Leggings and Fashion Leggings?

For leisurely activities, fashion leggings are typically made of cotton blends. Workout leggings are made with spandex, polyester, and nylon, and have been designed with extraneous activity in mind. Fashion leggings are made of cotton and come in all different colors, patterns, and designs. 

They are typically worn, as the name implies, for fashion. They go under sweaters, under dresses, or with t-shirts. They are not ideal for activity because they are often thin, making them see-through when stretched out. 

Also, cotton is one of the least breathable fabrics and can cause many problems when used for workout gear. 

Athletic leggings are made to sweat and stretch in mind and are made of a thicker fabric that will not become see-through when you move around. Athletic leggings are also typically made of nylon, polyester, or neoprene, which stay comfortable even when dampened by sweat. 

These fabric fibers are ideal for physical activity

Another great indicator of the fabric quality is the price. Fashion leggings are often less expensive than athletic leggings because they are made of cheaper fabric. 

What Is the Difference Between Leggings and Running Tights?

Amid the yoga pants versus leggings debate, another piece of clothing is popular among athletes: running tights

Running tights are similar to leggings, but the two are not interchangeable. They are typically very thin and nearly translucent, and you’d have to wear a pair of shorts or pants on top to feel comfortable. Leggings can be worn on their own.

two women in leggings jog together on the beach

Running tights do have a time and place, though. 

They are great for layering if you are going on a cold-weather hike or run, and the compression is beneficial to blood flow. Running tights can also be worn without underwear because of their breathable fabrics. 

Don’t make this your rule of thumb when wearing tights, though. Some professionals suggest always wearing underwear under your leggings to avert the risk of yeast infection. This goes for cotton leggings and non-athletic fabric leggings alike. 

Should I Wear Yoga Pants or Leggings?

You should wear yoga pants if you are working out or doing yoga. Also, if you are going out in cold weather, yoga pants will keep you warmer. You should wear leggings with your fashion choices, such as under a short skirt, long shirt, or for running errands. 

Of course, you should wear what you want whenever you want.

If you are doing athletic activities, it is usually best to wear something made of athletic materials such as nylon, polyester, or spandex. If you want to wear something under a piece of clothing or as a part of an outfit, consider what the thickness of athletic pants would feel like in the weather.

With the popularity of wearing leggings as either athletic or fashion wear, the choice is entirely up to you. If you like the way a piece of clothing looks with your outfit, go for it. Just take into consideration how comfortable they will feel if the weather changes. 

If you plan to go on a long hike or do some yoga, consider how the pants you select will stretch and react when you are sweating. Maybe you don’t sweat very much, so cotton leggings don’t make very much of a difference to you. 

In that case, it would make sense for you to wear whichever one you have available to you. 

You, however, will definitely feel a difference between the two. Everyone’s body works differently and reacts differently to different materials, so be observant of how your body feels.

The Verdict

Though yoga pants and leggings can be pretty similar, there are a few main differences.

  • Yoga pants are always made with physical activity in mind, using athletic fabric such as nylon, neoprene, and polyester. 
  • Leggings are sometimes made for athletic activities but are sometimes made for fashion with fabrics like cotton. Cotton is not ideal for athletic activities.

If you are choosing between the two, the good news is that most people won’t notice the difference. Do what makes you the most comfortable with this information in mind.

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