If you’ve been to a yoga class then you’ve most likely seen plenty of tights and leggings. Training with these has always felt good because of their stretchy and yet comfortable feel. Still, there is an ongoing debate on leggings vs tights as to which of them is better for running and training in general. Going forward, it is important for me to mention that by “tights” I will be referring to the sports type which is also called “footless tights” since they don’t cover your feet like normal everyday tights.
For some of the best winter running tights, head over to my gull guide on that topic!
Now, before we establish which is better for training and running, it is important to make a clear distinction between them and see what pros and cons each of the two have…
Main Differences Between Leggings and Tights
There are a few aspects in which tights and leggings differ from each other. The most important ones are:
Let’s go through all of these together and see how those two running outfits stack up against each other in every category.
This is one of the most important differences between tights and leggings. You can tell by their names which one will be more comfortable – yes, that’s right, it’s the leggings. They are meant for typical everyday comfort and are built to provide stretchiness and softness. Tights, on the other hand, are primarily built around the idea of keeping your legs’ muscles, well… tight. That is why they are often uncomfortable to wear unless you are training. They are also really easy to not fit properly, hence the abundance of size options. Still, with the advancement of material technologies, even running rights have become softer and more bearable in the long run (pun intended).
In terms of materials, leggings are often thick and have elasticized material blends such as cotton/spandex. Tights are also rich on elasticized materials like cotton but also have polyester and nylon blends that give them that extra tightness and durability. They also rely on materials like Spandex and Rayon. With tights, it is important to remember that they vary heavily in terms of their components and materials. Some, which are made for the colder climates, have less cotton to keep your legs dry and warm. The more a model is waterproof the more nylon, spandex, lycra, and elastane it has in general.
The coverage of both leggings and tights is the same. Some models of both types reach higher portions of your waist and those are typically more comfortable to run with since they won’t slide down.
Here it is important to make a distinction between normal tights and running tights. Technically, running tights are closer to leggings than to traditional tights since they are thicker and don’t have your feet covered while normal tights that most females know cover your feet and are very thin.
The warmth you get out of each depends primarily on its cotton concentration. Still, if there is too much cotton, your legs can start sweating and that moisture won’t be easily evaporated due to the insulation properties of cotton. This means that your legs will be wet and will feel colder if you’re running at cold temperatures. Usually, the more expensive the model, the more layers of fabric it has and the more advanced its moisture-wicking technologies are. This is valid for both leggings and tights.
If you’re running every day or at least very frequently then you know how important breathability is for the materials that make up your clothing gear. I touched on this briefly already but the easiest way to put it is that leggings are typically thicker and less breathable. This is because they aren’t designed to work in conditions with excess moisture such as a workout.
I will call this one even as both leggings and tights are pretty durable. Furthermore, this really depends on the quality of the model you chose and while there are some pretty solid leggings and tights out there, there are also some very poorly made ones as well.
While leggings are typically easy to wash, tights require a bit more attention. Hand-washing is always advised and you should also pay attention to the temperature at which you’re washing them. If you insist on having them machine-washed, putting them inside special mesh bags is your best option at not damaging the materials.
Now that we’ve gone through their main differences, let’s go through some of the pros of using leggings or tights when running…
Advantages of running with Leggings
There aren’t many notable advantages of running with leggings, especially when compared to tights. While there might still be some confusion about the names of both in the running world, leggings are geared towards everyday use. Sure, they can be a good temporary option if you aren’t an avid runner, but leggings just take care of your legs much better, especially over long and frequent runs.
Advantages of running with Tights
The advantages of having tights for your running routine are quite a few. For starters, your legs are well protected against the elements. Yoru muscles, joints, and tendons are also much better compressed and are held into place better. This is essential for the long-term health of your legs and body as a whole. Running tights are also built with training in mind so they are often much better when it comes to sweat management and temperature control.
Learn how to properly warm-up for various exercises and workouts by going to my full article on the topic!
The debate around leggings vs tights for running can be a really easy one depending on who you ask. Ask the casual runner and he’ll reply that both are fine for an occasional jog. Ask advanced runners or even sports physicians and you will get a definitive answer that running tights are superior not only for your health but for your performance as well.