What’s With Those Cheap Awesome Leggings?

imageThe setting: Early January. The mood: That post-holidays funk settled on the Salty crew like a cold, heavy fog. Energy and creativity-levels were low; we needed something, anything, to liven things up in the dead of a dark, dreary winter. The idea that sparked our curiosity and got us a little excited to check the mail obsessively for a couple of weeks? Leggings. Obnoxious, personalized to our specific tastes, bright and shiny new running tights to look forward to and to wear for our running buddies’ delight on the cold streets and trails. Retail therapy, cheap retail therapy at that, combined with running seemed the answer to our group winter-blues.

If you use social media or if you shop Amazon, you’ve probably seen pop-up ads for a seemingly endless array of leggings. Many of the pictures feature women wearing amazing tights twisted into a pretzel-form in a yoga class or dead-lifting at a Crossfit gym. Sometimes the models are just hanging around and looking cute, but most often they’re working out. This made us wonder: since regular ol’ running tights run upwards of $75 and come in variations of black or grey, how would these incredibly cheap flashy tights compare? In the end, eleven of us purchased a pair (or three) and took them out for a test-run, ranking them on a 1-5 snail-scale: “1” being throw-them-away-and-burn-them-now and “5” being out-of-this-world fantastic.

Rainbow Unicorn vs. Robot
Rainbow Unicorn vs. Robot

Upon pulling these on, they instantly reminded me of the tights that came with my high school track uniform: slippery, shiny, cheap and droopy. On the other hand, the rainbows, unicorn, and viscous robot attacks make them amazeballs. At 40 (a VERY youthful 40), however, it might be a crime to wear them in public, evidenced by the fact that all three of my children cried because they couldn’t wear them. I wore them on a 12-miler in 18-degrees and they were plenty toasty, though I had spandex shorts under them because I was worried about chafing, about them falling down and exposing my ass, or a seam busting and exposing worse! They weren’t as bad as I feared, but the sagginess was slightly annoying. Mostly it was the waistband drooping really low down. SCORE: 4 snails (5 for looks/3 for function)

Lower-body Skeleton

Are you an injury-prone runner into self-diagnosis of your running injuries? If you answered yes, then these stylish, digitally-printed lower body skeleton running tights are for you! Pinpoint the exact location of your tibial stress reaction or labral tear with these anatomically correct, low-performance tights. Impress your orthopedic surgeon or physical therapist! Simply identify the area of pain, match it up to the printed bone overlying the painful site, and bingo, you’ve got a diagnosis! Also doubles as a scary Halloween costume. **Disclaimer: May be less accurate for bony pelvic injuries due to crotch creep. SCORE: 3 snails

Marge Simpson
Marge Simpson

When I saw the familiar blue ‘fro-hive amidst a bright pink background, I knew these leggings were for me. A nostalgic remnant of one of my favorite (though banned by my mom after she heard Homer swearing from the living room) childhood cartoon characters smacked on my favorite color spandex. I took them for a trail run spin with a running bestie which was sprinkled with some giggles from passer-bys. They are too short for my lanky legs, resulting in a saggy crotch area, but they were otherwise comfy and kept me warm in sub 40-degrees. SCORE: 4 snails


Prepare to draw attention and receive compliments from random strangers when you wear these, so work on your peacock strut! Made of a silky spandex with no crotch insert, these leggings fit well (high-waisted, but not annoyingly so) and are comfortable, but will likely not be your go-to running tights. I wore them on a hilly 16-miler and they started slipping down within the first 1/4-mile, though after my legs warmed up and got clammy they stayed put for the rest of the jaunt with no chafing. I’d recommend these for fun group runs, run-dates, and for post-run coffee ventures. SCORE: 4 snails (5 for looks, 3 for function)

White Tiger
White Tiger

Grrrr’eat… When I saw these white tiger leggings for a mere $9.99, I just knew they had to be mine. Convincing my husband to be seen with me in public while wearing them was another story. I donned the tights for a Friday night gym workout. They survived 15 minutes on the indoor track, an upper body circuit, and 15 minutes of the stair stepper. Sadly their cut made for severe crotch slipping on the run. They will likely be relegated to at-home workouts henceforth. Comfortable fabric, cute design, bad fit. SCORE: 3 snails (1 for fit, 5 for looks)


Pimento sent me these gems; who doesn’t have a pair of spare muscle legginz lying around? As expected, they were a bit large in certain places but then tight in others. The inseam instantly clung to my crotch and butt, creating the perfect camel toe and wedgie. But once I got going on a 90 minute long run, they became a second (or is it first?) skin. I received a few looks and to my surprise, two compliments. The best coming from an older gentleman who shouted, “Whoa! Nice pants!” SCORE: 4 snails

Foxy! {Oregano’s so fancy she got a photographer! Photos by James Holk.}

I chose the “foxy leggings” because they are both cheerful and ridiculous. On the positive side, the visual is great. I went trail running in them and got three compliments from strangers, including one person who wanted to take a picture (not in a creepy way). They are warm and very shiny and make me happy. On the negative side, they hike up, fit loose and baggy around my knees and lower legs, have crotch wrinkles, and show water (or sweat) much more than I would prefer. Verdict: fun to wear for six miles or less, but clearly not made for running! SCORE: 3 snails (4 for looks, 2 for function/fit)

Magical Rainbow Cheetah
Magical Rainbow Cheetah

My magical rainbow cheetah leggings exceeded my expectations in relation to vibrant colors and the ability to elicit stares from strangers. Unfortunately, I experienced some GI distress during my test run, causing me to actually run like a magical rainbow cheetah to the nearest bathroom. Coincidence or an effect of the leggings? The jury’s still out. The leggings are not very warm, I wore them on a day that I would normally wear capris. I have weirdly long legs, so I was not surprised to find that the leggings were floods on me. The crotch sagged and the stitching is so poorly done, that after two washes, they are about to split down the middle. I’ll wear them again for a short run because they amuse me, but you won’t see me sporting these for a long run or a race. SCORE: 2 snails


How can a person fully describe 45 minutes worth of pure disappointment in just a few words? The leggings were purchased out of love, but those amorous feelings quickly turned to questioning, to pure hate in just a matter of hours. As advertised, the cat images were plentiful. The leggings were visually appealing, but the appeal ends there. As I excitedly opened my package, my olfactory senses were overwhelmed with the scent of what can only be described as “diesel mixed with the tears of the Chinese children who made them.” Once I shook the images of child labor from my head, I forged on and attempted to go for a short run.

Functionally, these were worse than anticipated. The fabric caused me to feel rashy and within minutes of running in them, I was showing considerable crack to my neighbors. The added bonus is I got to see what it felt like to run with my crotch between my knees. In case you’re wondering, it was incredibly unnatural. My goal was to take some fantastic photos in them, but I couldn’t peel them from my burning legs fast enough, thus, cutting the photo shoot short. I may have been better off setting a twenty dollar bill on fire than ordering these. Live and learn. SCORE: 0 snails (5 for looks, 0 for fit/function)

‘Merica! What happened when Coriander asked her fiance to take photos of her in the Flagginz.

Unfortunately, my #legginz were a big disappointment. I’m pretty simple when it comes to my running gear: black shorts or tights, race shirt and trucker hat. I was super pumped to receive my American flag leggings via Amazon Prime and put them on immediately when I got home. The walk from my bedroom to the kitchen proved that my flag leggings, or “flagginzs,” would not be suitable for any kind of activity except sitting on my ass on the couch. I ordered a brand that came in weird sizing. For standing still or sitting down, they fit perfectly…moving around, they immediately start to fall down. Glad they were only $9.99! SCORE: 3 snails (1 for fit, 5 for ‘Merica)

The Trifecta: Cat Face, Ginger Spice, and Ramones Groupie
The Trifecta: Cosmic Hookah Cat, Union Jack, and Red Tartan

The best part about my leggings? They make me feel like a rock star, whether I’m feeling like a Phish Head or Ginger Spice or a Punk Rock Girl. The worst part? They’re bunchy around my knees. I had the falling-down problem others had with my first pair, which were one-size-fits-all, but my larger-than-one-size butt fit much better in the other pairs, which I insisted upon ordering in a sized version in spite of having to wait a little extra time for non-Prime shipping. I sized up too, anticipating that they’d run small. Honestly, I love my leggings! I’ve been running regularly in them; they’re a great mid-temp layer, for when it’s too windy for shorts but not quite cold enough for pants. AND they’re a great conversation piece! SCORE: 4 snails (5 for looks, 3 for fit)

In general, the consensus from the Salty crew is that these shiny, cheap, ill-fitting tights are insanely cute but pretty non-functional for running more than a few miles, if that. Well, unless you’re Cinnamon or me, who went on to purchase multiple pairs and now parade around regular life looking like split-legged mermaids and stoners who run.

Have you purchased any legginz online? Describe them and share your snail rating!

I'm an elementary P.E. teacher with a long-term, ongoing marathon addiction.The next big goal? Keeping up my BQ streak while aiming for a 3:10! I write about the not-so-glamorous side of running and fitting in serious training with a family while staying sane(ish).

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  1. I love the seriousness with which this very scientific study was conducted.

    Also, helps the case for paying more for quality items that will last you several seasons.

  2. Love this article! I found some leggings I can workout in: LuLaRoe. I don’t run any more, due to herniated discs, but I briskly walk at a 4mph pace and bike. No chaffing, no crotch problems, they come in lots of cute patterns, and are available in One Size or Tall & Curvy. I’m not a consultant, so I have no good reason to promote them, or comment, except to use the word crotch one more time. LOL!

    1. I keep getting invited to online parties for that brand… maybe I’ll actually respond & check it out next time. Running tights need a crotch- that is the consensus 🙂

  3. I ran my last marathon in my muscle leggings. (I needed all the extra help I could get). They stank and staying up so I prepared ahead to wear my running fanny as a belt.

    The best part, and it’s especially best for a slowpoke like me, when I was in pain and seriously wondering why I shouldn’t just stop, tons of people in the race and on the sidelines commented on how great my pants were. That made the difference.