Look for: A wide waistband and a higher rise to hold in a muffin top and smooth the midsection, says Karyn Riale, a New York City–based retail buyer for the Shops at Equinox. For more belly flattening, try pants with built-in stomach-control panels.
If you’re thicker in the middle, the stretchy, padded waistband on these Capris won’t dig into your sides.
To buy: Adidas polyester-spandex pants, $60, zappos.com for info. Under Armour Victory tank, $23, underarmour.com. C9 by Champion compression bra, $15, target.com. New Balance 730 sneakers, $80, 888-801-9164. BodyFit speed rope, $7, 888-801-9164. Fantas-Eyes sunglasses, $18, 212-997-4433. Bkr Smith glass water bottle, $28, mybkr.com.
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To buy: Reebok nylon-spandex shapewear pants, $50, 866-870-1743.
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To buy: Prana Supplex-Lycra pants with a higher rise in back, $80, prana.com.
Look for: Side seams that curve inward to “sculpt” legs, says Kirta Carroll, the marketing brand director for Lady Foot Locker. A dense fabric, like Supplex, minimizes jiggle, while a straight or bootcut leg helps balance hips.
To buy: Nux nylon-spandex pants, $65, 855-855-8845 and nuxusa.com.
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For Full Hips and Thighs
To buy: New Balance polyester-spandex pants, $55, 800-595-9138 and newbalance.com.
Look for: Cuts that fit snugly on the thighs to slim and lengthen. Also, “ankle-length hems or ones that overlap your shoes help elongate, instead of chopping calves in half,” says Los Angeles–based sports stylist Cindy Whitehead. Prefer cropped? Try a pair that hits just past the knee.
To buy: C9 by Champion polyester-blend pants, $25, 800-591-3869 and champion.com.
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To buy: Marika Coolmax-and-cotton short pants, $50, marika.com.
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To buy: Old Navy nylon-spandex petite compression pants with hidden pocket in the back, $27, 800-653-6289 and oldnavy.com.
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If You’re Tall
Look for: Pants designed for “tall” proportions, which generally have inseams of 33 inches or longer. Crops should be fitted at the hem to avoid the “Where’s the flood?” look. Beware of camel toe (yup, we’re going there): Short-rise cuts can cause this on a long torso.
Workout Pants: 3 Annoying Problems and How to Solve Them
“The Underwear I Exercise in Isn’t Comfortable”
Ditch the cotton undies—they soak up sweat, causing chafing and creating a moist, unhealthy environment, says Michele Curtis, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. Instead, choose a breathable fabric, such as microfiber, that also wicks away moisture. To banish panty lines, you can exercise your options with a stretch-mesh thong (try the Moving Comfort DriLayer thong, shown here in blue; $14, movingcomfort.com) or seamless shorts for extra coverage (like the patterned Commando micro-fiber girl shorts, $26, wearcommando.com).
“Aside From Fit, What Should I Look for in Workout Pants?”
Make sure they are activity appropriate. For example, flared legs create an annoying flutter during cycling or running; a drawstring is uncomfortable when doing facedown yoga poses. Then seek out the following.
Performance fabrics: Also called wicking or technical fabrics, these synthetic blends, such as Coolmax and Supplex, draw sweat away from the skin to keep you dry. To avoid bagginess, check the care label to see if the garment has at least 8 percent stretch.
Flat seams: Unlike lumpy stitches, flat seams prevent rubbing. Or try seamless pants (like hosiery, but thicker).
Bonus features: Hidden pockets, anti-microbial treatments to repel odor, reflective accents for after-dark workouts, and ventilation panels behind the knees.
“Do Compression Tights Really Work?”
The jury is still out on these skintight pants, which more and more professional athletes are sporting under their shorts. Manufacturers claim the tights increase blood flow and support muscles so you can exercise longer and recover faster, and a few studies may substantiate that: Australian researchers found that compression-clad Rugby players had lower levels of lactate, a chemical associated with muscle fatigue, than did those who went without. Other studies, however, found no effect, says Delia Roberts, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist at Selkirk College, in British Columbia, and a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine. While more research is needed, what matters most for recreational athletes, says Roberts, is how the tights make you feel: “Since a lot of your performance is a mental game, if you feel a difference, go ahead and get a pair.”