If you’re keen to buy some new fit kit but don’t want to spend money on workout clothes that aren’t right for you, let us help. Why? Because we know a thing or two about kit here at MC UK and have a definitive list of the best activewear brands that we reckon you’ll want to scroll.
According to Global Data (opens in new tab), the UK’s sportswear market was valued at 13.8 million pounds back in 2020. Now that’s a Iot of kit, meaning knowing which brands to opt for can feel pretty overwhelming. Lucky for you, we’ve enlisted five health and fitness writers to share their go-to activewear brands that they genuinely own and think are worth your money.
With picks from Health Editor and 8x marathon runner Ally Head (opens in new tab), HIIT fan and Ecommerce Writer Grace Lindsay (opens in new tab) who tests products for a living, Contributing Wellness Editor and queen of all things self care Hayley Hasselhoff (opens in new tab), Producer and Pilates class lover Sofia Piza, and qualified fitness trainer Chloe Gray (opens in new tab), there’s something for everyone.
Keep scrolling for our picks of the best gym wear (opens in new tab), and don’t miss our guides to the best matching gym sets (opens in new tab), best oversized gym t shirts (opens in new tab), the best running shorts (opens in new tab), the best cycling shorts (opens in new tab), the best running trainers (opens in new tab) and even the best tennis skirts (opens in new tab), while you’re here.
Best activewear brands: 17 to shop now
If you haven’t heard of lululemon, question: where have you been? Founded by philanthropist Chip Wilson in Canada in 1998, the brand is widely credited for the birth of the athleisurewear trend and is known for its iconic, softer-than-butter leggings.
Originally designing only yoga wear, the brand has since expanded its offering to design kit for pretty much every discipline, also becoming one of the first brands in the world to design a female-first shoe – that is, a shoe actually designed for the female foot rather than simply a smaller version of the men’s iteration – last year.
Here at Marie Claire UK we’re big fans – while the kit is a higher price point, the quality speaks volumes. The kit is really designed to last the long run, plus their Quality Promise means that if your product doesn’t perform, they’ll take it back.
Our favourite product? While it’s hard to choose, their globally famous Align leggings just about take the top spot.
lululemon Align™ High-Rise Pant with Pockets 25″
“These are one of my favourite pairs of workout leggings. They take me from stretch to desk thanks to the weightless fabric that is softer than any other brand I’ve tried (and I’ve tried a lot over my time). The high waist is comfortable but stretchy, so they allow room for belly breathing during Shavasana and a sandwich at lunchtime.” Chloe Gray, qualified fitness trainer
If you’ve been on Instagram in the last, well, year, you’ll likely have seen an Adanola post pop up on your feed. Launched in Manchester back in 2014, the brand was founded by two fitness enthusiasts who wanted to get a sweat on together without sacrificing their style.
Enter stage right Adanola, an athleisurewear brand known UK-wide for their stylish spaghetti strap bras, matching leggings and tracksuit sets.
Sure, the kit might look more like the sort you’d wear to brunch and brunch only (that is, not actually to workout in), but after testing the kit multiple times, we were pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong. It’s supportive, sweat-wicking and comfortable, and looks great, too.
(opens in new tab)
“This sports bra has more of a longline fit, great for those wanting a bit of extra support. I loved the fact that it gave me a bit more coverage, as it made me feel more confident heading to the gym. What really stood out to me was the compressive fit and sculpting finish. The fabric is super smooth, stretchy, and sweat-wicking, which are all the things I look out for. The padding is also removable, so you can customise the fit.” Grace Lindsay, Ecommerce Writer
If you’re looking for a more sustainable sports brand (opens in new tab), you can’t go wrong with LNDR. Founded in 2015 by three women based in London, they set out with the aim to create a brand around “the lifestyle we want to live, the products we want to wear, and the people we want to hang out with.”
The brand believes in quality over quantity, and their products are made with cutting-edge technology to ensure the best fit. Fun fact: it takes factories up to 20 times longer to knit LNDR seamless leggings compared to other mainstream brands.
LNDR The Limitless 8/8 Legging
“When I first tried the LNDR leggings, I was surprised at how soft they are, and they feel similar to lululemon in terms of quality and support. They don’t roll up or down, sag or bag, and I found them to have great moisture-wicking capabilities, too. Plus, I loved the practicality of the zip pocket, making them a good option for runs where you don’t want your belongings flying out.” Ally Head, Health Editor
Keen to shop good quality fit kit without breaking the bank? Then we recommend checking out Gymshark. The company was launched by Ben Francis back in 2012, who now has an MBE for his services to the business sector. The brand has gone from strength to strength in recent years, boasting almost six million followers on Instagram alone. Plus, they’ve recently opened their first flagship store on Regent Street.
Gymshark GS Power Cropped Zip Hoodie
“When going to the gym, I always make sure to bring this hoodie from Gymshark. Not only does it help to keep me warm on the way there, but the cropped fit is super flattering and it’s light enough to wear whilst warming up.” Grace Lindsay, Ecommerce Writer
5. P.E Nation
Wanting to add a little colour to your gym wardrobe? Then say hello to P.E. Nation, an iconic athleisurewear brand worn by the likes of Kylie Jenner and Bella Hadid. An Australian label, it was launched in 2016 by two fashion designers with the aim of making high end, fashion-forward gym wear that you could wear anywhere – that is, kit that’s ideal for those of you who like to head to brunch straight after your workout.
PE Nation One Shot T Shirt
“Suitable to wear to the gym and out for a drink with a friend, I found this oversized tee from PE Nation was butter soft thanks to the fact that it’s made from organic cotton. Yes, it’s a higher price point, but an investment, IMO.” Ally Head, Health Editor
Another brand that is new on the activewear scene is YMO from The Sports Edit. The name stands for ‘You. Me. Ours’, and the products have been developed using seven years of industry insight. Their aim? To understand what you want from your activewear, so they can support you through your workouts.
Their designs are led by the feedback they receive, and they take everything into account from sizing, quality, comfort and more.The products are exclusively stocked on the premium sportswear site, and we’ve loved everything that we’ve tried so far.
(opens in new tab)
YMO Spark Cross Strap Bra
“My first thought when testing the Spark Cross Strap Bra by YMO was that I was impressed. It is a serious all-rounder – sweat-wicking, compressive, supportive and flattering, too, you can tell the designers know what they’re doing.” Ally Head, Health Editor
7. Sweaty Betty
An absolute go-to. We are yet to meet anyone who doesn’t like Sweaty Betty. Founded in 1998 by Tamara Hill-Norton, the brand is all about helping you become woman you want to be. They focus on performance and style, making their activewear fun yet practical.
In fact, Sweaty Betty’s Power Leggings are a bestseller thanks to the technical fabric that sculpts your body, and one pair sells every 60 seconds. Pretty cool, right?
Sweaty Betty Power Gym Leggings
“What I love about these leggings is that they are super high-waisted, helping me to feel secure no matter what workout I am doing. I also like the fact that they come with a pocket on the side, as I can store my keys in there when I head to the gym. After testing them during an intense HIIT workout, I was happy to see that there were no sweat patches on show, which is a major plus for me.” Grace Lindsay, Ecommerce Writer
8. Pocket Sport
Pocket Sport belongs to Made In Chelsea star Louise Thompson and Edward Page. They started the brand five years ago after realising that there was a gap in the market when it came to workout clothes that felt just as good to wear after your workout. Their mission was to get people moving in high-quality activewear that can be worn all day long.
We know what you’re thinking, can a celebrity workout brand really live up to the hype? In this case, it absolutely can. In fact, our Ecommerce Writer swears by their Claude Shorts. Just check out her review below…
(opens in new tab)
Pocket Sport Claude Shorts
“Ok, these shorts are seriously impressive. They feature a waistband gripper which stops them from falling down, and there is even a little internal pocket to put your card and keys. I was worried that they would be see-through or show sweat patches because of the lighter colour, but I haven’t had a flash of underwear or sweat patch in sight so far.” Grace Lindsay, Ecommerce Writer
9. Alo Yoga
Another workout brand loved by celebs such as Jennifer Lopez is Alo Yoga. Founded in LA back in 2007, it’s all about encouraging people to take part in mindful movement. Their kit is designed for exactly that, and Marie Claire UK‘s producer, Sofia Piza, practically lives in the brand.
Alo Yoga Accolade Crew Neck Pullover
“If you’re on the hunt for a workout hoodie that is equally as snug as it is lightweight, then look no further. The Accolade Crew Neck Pullover has quickly become my new staple both in and out of the gym. It’s made of diagonal French terry which makes it extra warm and comfortable and it comes in sizes XXS to 2XL making it easy to find your perfect fit. I personally went for my usual size and found it to be an oversized fit that looks stylish whilst being completely functional.” Sofia Piza, Producer
Do we even need to explain? It’s safe to say that adidas is one of the biggest sports brands in the world. It was founded back in 1949, and not only has it had a huge impact on sport, but it’s also had an impact on fashion too. Don’t let that fool you though, as their gym wear is seriously impressive.
Their mission? To become the best sports brand in the world. After testing a fair share of the fit kit ourselves, we can say for sure that they will always be a firm favourite in our wardrobes.
adidas Ultraboost 22 Trainers
“Did you know? These Ultraboost trainers from Adidas are one of the first trainers specifically designed to fit the female foot. They’ve long been my go-to trainer as they’re bouncy, supportive, and don’t look mental if you wear them with your work outfit. Worth the ££.” Ally Head, Health Editor
11. New Balance
New Balance is one of the most fashionable activewear brands around, and it’s not hard to see why. The brand seamlessly blends quality and style, creating clothing and footwear that you simply won’t want to take off.
It all started back in 1906 in Boston, Massachusetts. William Riley designed his first flexible arch insert, inspired by his observation that his backyard chickens achieved perfect balance when standing on three claws. The brand has been on quite a journey since then, but one fact still remains, their trainers are some of the most comfortable shoes we have ever owned.
Our Health Editor is also a big fan of New Balance clothing, and always opts for the brand’s shorts when training for a marathon.
New Balance Impact Run Fitted Short
“Offering not one, not two, but three pockets, these cycling-style shorts from New Balance are great. I’ve tried them on many a training run and they always dry quickly, plus they are more affordable than other options.” Ally Head, Health Editor
A gym brand that knows how to make statement is Varley. Still relatively new on the scene having been founded in 2015, Varley design their clothing with the modern woman in mind. Inspired by the lifestyles of London and Los Angeles, expect trendy prints in neutral colours that you can easily mix and match.
Varley Let’s Go High Rise Legging 25
“Varley’s gym leggings are more of an investment, but they are worth it thanks to the quality. They are slightly on the thinner side, shiny and soft, yet have supported me through many a sweaty session. When I tried them, they flattered in all the right places and I didn’t think twice about them falling down.” Ally Head, Health Editor
Another brand that needs no introduction is Nike. With five decades of innovation in women’s apparel, they are known for breaking conventions and setting high standards when it comes to activewear. From the first built-in sports bra to football kits designed specifically for women, there’s nothing they can’t do.
We know we can always rely on them for high quality gym wear, whether we’re looking for leggings, tops, trainers or more. Something we love about the brand is that they also have a wide range of plus size and maternity fit kit, too.
Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39 Shield Shoes
“When looking for the perfect running shoe. I always look for a trainer that has a component which will lend to all weather conditions. This is why I love the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 39 Shield. These road running shoes are sturdy enough to endure all weather conditions, with a water-repellent finish and a cosy fleece-like feel on the inside to keep your feet warm.” Hayley Hasselhoff, Contributing Wellness Editor
Fun fact – despite only launching in 2015, this brand is already rumoured to be one of Harry Styles’ favourites, and if it’s good enough for Harry, then it’s good enough for us. In all seriousness, this brand is loved in the US for a reason. Their fit kit is soft, flattering and functional, and can be used for pretty much any sweat session.
Vuori Studio Pocket Short
“What I really like about these Vuori shorts is how soft they feel, how flattering they are, and how functional I find them for both short runs and gym sessions. All in all, a great all-rounder.” Ally Head, Health Editor.
One of our favourite sustainable sportswear brands is Allbirds, a brand that made creating the lowest CO2 running trainer in the world look – well, easy.
Tim Brown, a native of New Zealand, started asking himself why merino wool – a sustainable resource – was not being used in the footwear industry. After years of research, he teamed up with Joey Zwillinger to create a wool fabric made specifically for footwear.
The brand is now certified B Corp, and have created a whole range of quality activewear that is kinder to the planet.
Allbirds Women’s Natural Run Form Tank
“I’m always on the hunt for gym gear that looks nice, performs well and doesn’t leave a lasting impact on the planet. I particularly love this tank top as it sits right above my belly button, meaning I don’t have to wear a top and have less washing to do after a workout. It’s also supportive enough to run in thanks to the in-built bra.” Ally Head, Health Editor
Spanx might not be the first brand that comes to mind when you think of activewear, but don’t let that put you off. Founder Sara Blakely started the brand back in 2000, when she realised she didn’t have the right underwear to create a smooth look under white pants.
The brand has grown massively over the years, and now offers bras, underwear, leggings, activewear and more to help women feel great about themselves.
Hayley Hasselhoff, our Contributing Wellness Editor, loves their fit kit thanks to the brand’s smoothing technology.
(opens in new tab)
Spanx Every.Wear Active Icon Leggings
“As a curvier girl and someone who already loves to feel tucked in regardless of the occasion, I’ve mastered finding the right high-waisted leggings that are perfect for all workouts, and Spanx has become a go-to thanks to the brand’s incredible smoothing technology. These leggings also have additional performance fabric for stretch and a breathable antimicrobial finish. Win win.” Hayley Hasselhoff, Contributing Wellness Editor
Another amazing sustainable sportswear brand is BAM. Founded in 2006, the brand makes their clothing out of bamboo, which absorbs five times more carbon than hardwood trees, needs half the land cotton to produce the same amount of fibre and doesn’t need irrigation or pesticides.
BAM Balance Bamboo Leggings
“Not only do I love the fact that these leggings are made out of bamboo, but they are also soft, supportive and sweat-wicking. Performance-focused and planet-friendly? I’m in.” Ally Head, Health Editor
So there you have it – all the best brands ready for you to bookmark or shop now. You need never Google the best activewear brands again.