Fashion

Tried & Tested: Sustainable Gym Leggings

By Sophie Parsons
04.10.19

Image: Girlfriend Collective

Whether your Saturday mornings are spent at spin classes or in a zen yoga class, activewear is an essential in most of our wardrobes. Read what our team has to say about their favourite sustainable leggings to run, box and gym in.

 

Unlike the rest of our wardrobe, activewear has the more specific criteria of comfort, flexibility and a complete ease of movement - there is nothing more frustrating than having to hoist up your leggings at the end of every round of sun salutations. But with Lycra activewear taking anywhere between 20 and 200 years to decompose in landfill, more sustainable alternatives instead favour recycled materials; such as Girlfriend Collective’s use of recycled water bottles or TALA’s upcycled Polyamide. According to TALA’s website, in opting for a recycled yarn, each pair of its Zinnia leggings saves 40 litres of water and 2kg of CO2 in comparison to the non-up-cycled alternative.

While opting for a recycled fabric helps to reduce the need for new virgin plastic and helps fight the amount of plastic pollution currently plaguing the planet, the issue of microfibres is one that cannot be ignored. Plastic, as we are all now aware, can be extremely damaging for the environment and plastic-derived materials can unfortunately have similar effects. Microfibres are shed from synthetic materials during washing cycles, passing through into our water systems and ending up in our oceans. The best way to combat this is to consider how you are washing any synthetics you may have: investing in a Guppyfriend Washing Bag, reducing the temperature and duration of your washes and switching to a liquid soap. In being more conscious of how the whole process is affecting the planet, from the initial use of recycled yarns to limiting the microfibres shedded in the wash, your sustainable leggings can do so much more than help you reach your fitness goals.

Pure by Luce

Pure by Luce is a travel-inspired activewear brand designed to appreciate the planet and its people. Its signature prints are designed in collaboation with international artists met during the founders' travels, and the fabric itself is made from ECONYL® regenerated nylon, and sewn in ethically-managed factories in Portugal.

Liz: I love the beautiful colours and design of the Alou Akchour leggings by Pure by Luce - I literally feel like a mermaid when I wear them and have gotten loads of compliments on the look of them. I exercise quite a lot and have a pretty diverse schedule which includes netball, running, HIIT, boxing, yoga, weight training and hiking. I tried these leggings for yoga, HIIT and hiking and found the performance pretty good overall. The material is comfortable and the fit is nice and flexible. My only quibble would be that the lack of a waist tie means that they can fall down a little when you’re sweaty and jumping around. For this reason, I would probably say that these leggings are more suited to lower intensity exercise, such as yoga, hiking etc. rather than running or circuit training. However, I did actually size up because I’d heard the sizes ran small, but maybe sticking to my actual size might have meant that the leggings stayed put a bit better. As, once on, the size up did feel a lot roomier and the waistband was a little loose. Overall, I absolutely love how these leggings look and feel (and also the great sustainable principles behind Pure by Luce) and they will definitely be a regular feature in my workout wardrobe.

Patagonia

Patagonia has been leading the way for outdoor clothing with a cause for a long time, with the business aiming to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. Its activewear opts for a breathable recycled polyester/elastane blend that keeps it supportive shape throughout the course of the day. In addition to opting for a recycled yarn, its use of plant-based multi-purpose fabric softeners and odor control demonstrates a consideration right down to the last detail.

Julia: My Patagonia leggings are a complete dream. Warm, thick and high-waisted, there’s also a small pocket for keys or an iPod, essential for non-class or gym-based exercise. They can be a little warm in my stuffy yoga studio but for runs, bike rides and a quick morning flow before my house has warmed up, they’re exactly the kind of thing need. I’ve also taken to wearing them around the house with thick jumpers - a true sign of love! I’d love to take these out for longer walks and hikes - I think with a rain coat and walking boots they’d be a fantastic accompaniment, particularly in the winter months.

Girlfriend Collective

Girlfriend Collective is a U.S. based activewear brand wholly commited to transparency and reducing both the social and environmental effects of fast fashion. Pioneers in the field, this year Girlfriend released 'The Microfibre Filter' - an attachment for washing machines that captures any microfibres before they make their way into the water system. Additionally, its ReGirlfriend scheme helps to create a more circular system whereby you can send in any of your much-loved but kind of tired looking activewear from its Compressive range to then be recycled into new ones - this is, at the moment, only available in the U.S. but we have our fingers crossed they'll soon make it available worldwide.

Sophie: I first fell in love with Girlfriend Collective last year and have been pining over them ever since, mostly for its incredible colour range (I chose 'tanzanite’ in the end) and Instagram aesthetic. My preferred method of exercise is running, with one or two slow stretching yoga classes supplementing that. I’ve worn my compressive high-rise leggings to do both and cannot fault them. My main concern when finding leggings is the possibility of them falling down, and thankfully these have a wide waistband and are tight enough (but not uncomfortably so) that they survive sun salutations and long runs. My favourite thing about these, bar the silky recycled fabric, is the small pocket on the back of the waistband, perfectly sized for house keys - a necessity for any runner.

Nimble

Nimble activewear opts for a yarn derived from post-consumer use recycled plastic bottles and are produced within an 80km radius of Taiwan (in a carefully monitored factory for high standard working conditions, pay and product quality), reducing wastage, packaging and transport. In the summer of 2019, Nimble switched to compostible packaging, delivering its orders in corn starch packaging.

Julia: These Nimble leggings are so comfortable and light - with a lovely high waist (who wants anything other nowadays!) they’re also really supportive. I first wore these to a very humid yoga class - they performed well but the colour and the heat did not make friends, leaving me with some less than attractive sweat marks - so be warned when choosing your colour! They fared much better on outdoor activities, jogs, walks and bike rides. Taking them for a spin on a 25 mile bike ride in October, I was a little worried I’d get cold but these babies were brilliant - so comfortable, nice and warm but without the cloying feeling of overheating that thicker leggings can sometimes give you! I’m not sure I’d wear them for longer rides in the depths of winter, but for a transitional option they really performed and would take you through the warmer months happily I’m sure.

Sophie: A 7/8 legging is great for a hot yoga class and so Nimble’s all day high rise legging mid-calf finish helps to keep things relatively cool in an otherwise very sweaty class. As someone who borders on the edge of tall sections, with a usual 32” leg length, these are perhaps more so on the cropped side than I had anticipated, a three-quarter length rather than sitting on the ankle, in addition to the crotch not quite sitting right. Consequently these have become my designated yoga leggings, as opposed to something I could easily run in.

TALA

Image Credit: TALA

Founded by fitness influencer Grace Beverley, TALA is sustainable activewear brand that focuses on inclusivity and empowerment through great fitting pieces. With a commitment to transparency, its website carefully details the composition, care information and sustainable credentials of each of its pieces. As detailed above, its Zinnia leggings save on water and carbon dioxide, in addition to being breathable, seamless and flattering. 

Lori: My fitness routine is quite diverse, boxing, running, functional HIIT training, yoga - I like to mix things up. I’ve always found it quite tricky to find a pair of leggings that can do a bit of everything. TALA’s got me covered! I tried the Zinnia leggings, which has a high-rise waistband and lengthens down to the ankle. Not only is the fit incredibly flattering (on any body type!) but the stretch and support that it provides allows me to easily transition from my training in to a leisurely run, Sunday brunch or afternoon nap. I love to wear these leggings when I’m boxing as they really move with my body and help streamline my technique. When you order an item of TALA activewear, you’ll notice that on the inside of the waistband it details the material composition and attached is a label that you can plant and grow after use! TALA is the gift that keeps on giving allowing you to perform at your best for yourself and the planet.

Read Flora Beverley's guide to the best sustainable running gear.

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Tried & Tested: Sustainable Gym Leggings