If your 2022 resolutions include a shiny new fitness plan, the first step might be signing up for a gym membership or online class subscription service. The second step? Browsing all the beautiful workout clothes the fitness industry’s most popular activewear brands have to offer, and treating yourself to a new fit (or two, or five).
Hear me out: if you have aspirations of becoming a fitness buff (or, you know, just moving your body a bit more), but find it extremely difficult to get motivated, new workout attire to rock on the treadmill can actually be a great incentive to get going.
But like other areas of the fashion industry, activewear, especially, has become saturated with dozens of brands. The sheer amount of leggings, sports bras, tank tops, joggers, windbreakers, and the like can feel overwhelming, especially to those just getting started on their fitness journey. There are so many great options on the market that it’s almost paradoxical: with all these choices, how are you supposed to narrow them all down?
Well, to help you out, I’ve listed 13 of the best activewear brands worth shopping — straight from experience. These offerings range from affordable to luxury, sport-centric to athleisure, and I guarantee there’s a perfect fit for everyone.
Sweaty Betty was founded by Tamara Hill-Norton to help women feel beautiful and powerful no matter how they choose to get active. It started in the UK, with a small boutique in Notting Hill circa 1998, and has since become a global phenomenon. Sizes range from XXS to XXL, and you’ll find everything from performance leggings to sports bras on the site. The brand is also known for its aesthetic athleisure, including stylish sweatshirts, and cozy fleece jumpsuits to kick back in post-workout.
A body-positive brand that has inclusive sizing and every kind of athleticwear imaginable? Yes, please. Girlfriend Collective is more than just an activewear label — it’s a movement and a mission. The brand prides itself on its transparency and dedication to leaving as little a carbon footprint as possible. All of its offerings are made with recycled materials, dyed with water that’s carefully treated to ensure no dyes are re-released into the earth, and are hand cut and sewn in a facility that values its workers. Sizes range from XXS to 6XL, and bestselling pieces include its Sports Skort, 50/50 Classic Hoodie, and Dylan Tank Bra.
Lululemon is the first brand that comes to my mind when athleticwear enters the chat. An OG high-end workout apparel label, Lululemon was born in Canada and has since expanded to brick and mortars throughout the world. It prides itself on being a “technical athleticwear” brand, with a range of styles for a variety of activities like yoga and running.
Kate Hudson founded her activewear brand, Fabletics, in 2013, and it quickly generated a cult following — on both social media and throughout Hollywood. The actress and wellness entrepreneur has since collaborated on capsule collections with stars such as Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland, Maddie Zeigler, and mom Goldie Hawn, and also secured her brand as one of the most inclusive on the market (sizes range from XXS to 4X).
A member of the Gap Inc. family, Athleta is a B-corp that produces performance and technical activewear for women and young girls. People and the planet are just as integral to this company as its profit, and creating beautiful, technical, and, even more importantly, sustainable activewear is its uncompromisable mission. Products come in sizes from XXS to 3X, and range from foundational items like sports bras and leggings, to tops and outerwear, swimwear and pajamas.
Before there was athleisure, there was just straight up activewear, and Nike was (and still remains) one of the biggest brands in the category. Arguably best known for its shoes, some of Nike’s most iconic items to date are its Jordans and Air Force 1s, but its most recent hits include Sports Tech Fleece Joggers and the Essential Pullover.
In the ’90s, you were either team Nike or team Adidas. While Nike seemingly had a monopoly over crosstrainers, Adidas fans were all about the brand’s signature trackpant. And like Nike, you’ll also see athletes from all over repping Adidas merch, especially its sneakers baring the brand’s signature stripes.
Reebok was owned by Adidas since 2005, but was recently acquired by Authentic Brands Group, a celebrity-and-clothing licensing company. Known as a footwear brand first and foremost, Reebok has expanded its offerings to all kinds of activewear. You’ll find everything from jogging essentials to loungewear across the site (its leggings are a personal favorite), and collaborations with Victoria Beckham and Les Milles have added to the brand’s notoriety over the years.
When I think of Outdoor Voices, I think of vibrantly colored activewear that makes a statement in and outside the gym. The brand is less focused on getting swole and, instead, exercising to feel your soul, because endorphins make you happy and that’s what you deserve to be. The brand believes that movement should be fun, and it reflects in its clothing, like the industry’s OG exercise dress (available in over 10 colors and prints) and its Rectrek Zip-Off Pant.
If ever there were a brand that took the concept of yoga and harnessed it into a luxury activewear label, it’s Alo. Alo Yoga is for anyone who flows, but also for anyone passionate about sporting sophisticated activewear both on and off the mat. There’s an option to search items based on your movement of choice (be it yoga, pilates, barre, strength training, etc.), clothing item, or gear, and sizes range from XS to XL, depending on the product.
Here’s the 411 on Bandier: the website is essentially an online department store of activewear. But while you can purchase pieces from a list of designers on the site, Bandier is also its own activewear brand, and often collaborates with other clothing labels and influencers (i.e. Yoga Hustle and Sincerely Jules, to name a few). Merch is limited in terms of types of items under the Bandier label, but offerings include hoodies and joggers to match.
Balance Athletica is founded and owned by sister-duo Taylor Dilk and Chloe Chamberlain, who aspired to create a brand of activewear fit for every body. With a cult-following on social media and collections that sell out as soon as they are released, each new drop is better than the last. A personal favorite piece is the brand’s Cloud Pant, a legging that goes on like butter, boasts an incredibly comfortable waistband, and comes in over a dozen colors. (I loved them so much, I was tempted to toss all of the other pairs in my drawer).
Gymshark paved the way for activewear start ups to gain momentum on social media. It was founded by Ben Francis when he was only a high schooler, printing and designing fitness apparel in a garage with a group of friends. Fast-forward to today and Gymshark has 5.5 million followers on Instagram alone, with customers in 131 countries. I’m a big fan of its Flex Collection, and am inclined to love anything designed or backed by Gymshark athlete Whitney Simmons.