The Best Workout Pants

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Once upon a time, workout pant choices consisted almost exclusively of heavy, baggy sweats made of cotton. Not only were these pants unflattering, they weighed you down during your exercise session. Today, the array of workout attire for both men and women is dizzying. Navigating through athletic clothing stores and sites requires you to know what fabrics to seek out, what type of fit is best for your intended use and, yes, what looks good on your body. An uncomfortable pant means a potentially disappointing workout and if the fit isn't right, it may make you feel worse about your body despite having hit the gym.

What's Your Purpose

Before you purchase a pair of workout pants, consider what you'll use them for. Close-fitting tights are preferred for running and cycling in cold temps because they cut down on wind resistance and prevent drafts. Pants with cuffs can also trip you up when running or get caught in the crank of your bike. Baggier pants with a loose bottom are a fit for kickboxing or indoor boot camps. In aerobic dance, where style may be as important as fit, choose pants that flatter your assets so you enjoy checking yourself out as as you shimmy in the mirror. For yoga, slim fitting pants that don't ride up your crack or roll down your waist are a must -- you don't want to be adjusting your clothing in your Warriors or showing off more than your Down Dog.

It's All About the Fabric

Technical fabrics that wick moisture are invaluable during a sweaty routine. Cotton absorbs sweat -- so the material becomes heavy, which could promote chafing, and can make you chilled in cold weather by keeping you wet. Nylon, spandex and lycra move with you -- so you won't feel restricted whether you're striding, lunging, pedaling, kicking, gyrating or flowing. If you prefer the coverage of pants, even in warm temperatures, choose those with fishnet panels. In a 2003 issue of "Sports Medicine," researchers from the Human Performance Lab at East Carolina University noted that fishnet clothing provides greater heat dissipation, keeping you cooler.

Fit to a T

The best workout pants fit you in a flattering, but functional way. If you have a bit of a muffin top, look for pants with thick elastic banding at the waist to hold in your tummy. Pear shapes should avoid pant designs with wide stripes down the thighs -- these only make you look wider -- but boy-shaped gals may prefer a little color at the hips to give the illusion of curves. Flared cuffs on an apple-shaped body makes you look bulky. Flared, baggy bottoms are also a no-no in powerful yoga classes -- when you turn upside down and lift your leg, your pant's leg bunches up over your thigh. Don't be afraid of a slim fit either -- many performance fabrics pull in any wobbly bits and you may actually like what you see. If you are loathe to fitted pants, track pants made from performance fabric offer comfort, movement and wicking options.

Shopping Smarts

When you shop, try on the pants and don't be afraid to move in them. Do a yoga pose and check if they're too sheer in the bum; perform a dozen jumping jacks and lunges to see if the pants move with you. Sometimes you may have to pay a little more than you planned -- high-quality workout pants can cost upwards of $80 to $100 -- but if the fit is right and they make you excited about using your gym membership, the cost is worth it.