The 6 Different Types of Gym & Workout Pants Explained

It’s important to choose the right type of pants to wear during your workouts.

You need something flexible and non-restrictive.

The pants should be comfortable too, as discomfort can ruin a workout.

You’re also going to be sweaty, so ideally, something breathable with minimal chafing would be nice. Plus, you should look for a price that seems fair.

But even taking into account all of these criteria, there are a lot of different types of workout pants to choose from.

Let’s break them all down.

The main types of workout pants are:

  1. Sweats
  2. Joggers
  3. Yoga Leggings
  4. Loose-fit yoga pants
  5. Running pants or tights
  6. Compression leggings

Some of these varieties can also be broken down further into which materials they use, from cotton to nylon to spandex and even bamboo.

Let’s examine each style of workout pant and figure out which one you need!

The Different Primary Types of Workout Pants

When you start shopping around for pants to wear in the gym or during your workouts, you have a few main choices:


Sweatpants are fantastic, versatile garments.

They can take you from the workout machines to the trails for a nice jog. They’re loose enough to offer flexibility, but they’re snug enough so they don’t flap everywhere while running.

Sweats are particularly useful for winter workouts, as they keep you warm.

The material is thick and heavy, and they’re often made of cotton.

Cotton is a breathable material, and sweat washes out of it well.

Unfortunately, it does absorb sweat, and that can cause chafing.

(For more, check out why people love wearing sweatpants in the gym.)


Joggers are a lot like sweats, so much so that many people don’t know the difference between the two.

The difference is that joggers are lightweight, and they’re rarely made of cotton.

Joggers chafe much less than sweats, they can be worn in warmer weather, and they offer the same versatility as sweats.

They’re non-restrictive, and they’re neither too tight nor too loose. 

However, the legs can be a little too baggy toward the top for some people’s tastes. The bagginess depends on the brand and style that you get; some are skin-tight, where others are roomier than sweats.

(Fitted joggers are some of the best pants for weightlifting.)

Yoga Pants

The most widely recognized form of yoga pants is the tight, leggings-style pants that you see. However, there’s also a baggier style available.

Yoga pants are usually geared towards women, but there are some available for men, too.

Leggings or Tights Style

The “leggings” style yoga pants are usually tailored for women, where men wear tights in the same style.

This style of pants is tight but flexible. Pants like this are made with smooth materials that don’t chafe, and they’re great for wicking sweat and remaining breathable.

This style is fantastic for yoga and pilates; they’re great for use on pilates machines, as there’s no loose fabric to get caught in the machines’ mechanisms.

Women often wear this style of yoga pants for general workouts, using them as attire for jogs, gym visits, and more fitness activities.

They’re highly versatile and you’ll see a ton of women wearing yoga pants out and about with no plans to exercise — that’s how comfy and functional they are!

Meanwhile, men may favor the tights style of yoga pants worn under shorts as a supportive garment. Tights can be used instead of compression shorts or compression leggings.

Loose Style Yoga Pants

The looser style of yoga pants can work for men and women.

They resemble joggers, but they have baggier lower legs. You could wear joggers as a great alternative to these pants, too. 

These looser pants are suitable for use in yoga, but there’s too much excess material in the legs for use in pilates.

The pants would get caught in machines, so they’re not great for using near gym equipment.

Loose-style yoga pants are often made of thin cotton, but they’re also made with synthetic blends like polyester and nylon.

Both materials have their benefits which will be discussed later.

Running Pants/Tights

While you can run in sweats and joggers, running pants are tighter so they offer less potential chafing, and there’s less loose material to snag on your surroundings.

Running pants are made of moisture-wicking materials, and they can be worn under running shorts in winter if needed.

However, be careful with running pants, as they can chafe if you wear underwear with them.

Many men choose to wear jockstraps with them for comfort and support in lieu of underwear.

These pants/tights come in various lengths, from mid-calf to ankle.

They rarely rise above the knee. Above the knee, they’re too much like running shorts.

Compression Leggings

Compressing leggings are often made to be worn under shorts or looser workout pants.

They’re meant to help prevent muscle strain, and they also promote healthy blood flow to your legs.

Compression shorts are more common than compression leggings, but compression leggings are more suitable for colder weather.

They’re worth checking out, as long as you don’t mind wearing something tight and may feel slightly restrictive.

Workout Pants Materials

Some workout pants materials are more desirable than others, but they all have their benefits.

Here’s what to know about each of them while you’re shopping:


Nylon is one of the best materials for use in workout clothing.

The stretchy material allows for an excellent range of motion, and that’s especially important on leg day.

You’ll find nylon used in all types of workout pants.

The fabric is breathable, so you can stay cool, and it’s smooth, so it won’t chafe.

The fact that it wicks sweat away from your skin also prevents chafing.

The sweat moves through the fabric to sit on the surface, and it evaporates quickly. Nylon is one of the fastest drying fabrics out of all workout materials

Unfortunately, Nylon can be difficult to clean. Foul odors often linger in the fabric, even after washing.


Spandex is another excellently flexible material, and it wicks moisture well, too.

It doesn’t dry quite as quickly as nylon, but the moisture never lingers for long.

The main downside of spandex is that it tends to be tight, so it’s not suitable for someone who doesn’t enjoy tight clothing.

You’ll often find spandex marketed as Lycra, particularly when it comes to tights or leggings. It’s the same material with the same properties as spandex.

Spandex can also be called elastane. It’s usually called elastane when it’s found in blends with other materials.

Polypropylene and Polyester

Polypropylene and polyester are similar synthetic materials.

They’re water-resistant, so they’re great for running in the rain. They also stop the sweat they wick from soaking back through to your legs.

You’ll find lots of joggers that are made from these materials.

They’re lightweight and can be made into loose or form-fitting garments. Polyester in particular is UV-resistant, so it’s particularly useful for running outdoors in the sun.

Polypropylene and polyester are often found in fabric blends with elastane, especially in joggers. This helps your joggers stretch but retain their normal shape later on.

Polypropylene and polyester are full of benefits, but they have a similar downside to nylon. Odors linger in the fabrics, even after washing.


Cotton is the perfect fabric to choose if you want to reduce odor, according to this study.

However, cotton’s main downside is that it absorbs moisture. This can get uncomfortable (your pants might start to feel heavy and suffocation), and it can cause chafing.

Of course, you can reduce chafing with moisturizer, talcum powder, and cornstarch, and you could opt to wear looser cotton garments, like sweatpants. 

Cotton’s main upside is that it’s breathable, washes well, and it’s highly affordable. Cotton is a natural material that’s found widely, so it doesn’t come with a hefty price tag.


Bamboo is an excellent alternative to cotton.

It’s more commonly found in sports bras, but it’s present in some leggings, joggers, and sweat pants these days, as it’s increasing in popularity.

Bamboo wicks moisture and it’s breathable. It also washes well, and it doesn’t always chafe as much as cotton.

Bamboo is regarded as one of the most eco-friendly workout materials, and its other attributes make it a perfect pick for workout materials.

You should consider trying it out if you get the chance.


I know what you’re thinking — wool workout pants?!

Just keep an open mind, wool might surprise you.

Wool, especially merino wool, is a lot like bamboo. It’s sustainable, doesn’t always chafe, and it’s breathable. It wicks moisture and keeps you dry, too.

Wool isn’t as commonly used in workout pants as the other materials are, but you may still find it in some sweats and joggers.

It doesn’t retain odors, it helps regulate your temperature, and it’s incredibly comfortable.

Wrapping Up

There are tons of workout pants on the market.

Some are made for a particular activity, like yoga pants and running pants, but you can wear some for general use.

Joggers and yoga leggings are versatile and can be utilized for any workout.

Consider trying out a few styles of workout pants, and see which ones you like best.

Remember to weigh up the pros and cons of their materials, too. You may like the sound of cotton as it’s inexpensive, but think about the chafing. 

Sometimes it’s better to spring for something pricier, like a polyester/elastane blend. Some blends include cotton, too, and that helps reduce chafing significantly.

Before you go, here are some more guides that might help:

Hope this helps!