As the weather thaws in the UK, we often feel more inclined to exercise like joining park yoga classes, working out to a Joe Wicks YouTube video, or going for a run. Whereas you can borrow your boyfriend’s t-shirt and exercise in those well-loved sweatpants you own, there’s something a little more motivating when you’re wearing a cute, matching gym outfit. And whilst you don’t need fancy Lululemons where a pair of yoga leggings will set you back £98 to £118 and a tank top costs around £58 – meaning one day’s gym outfit might cost you at least five times more than a monthly membership – you may want to invest in some more affordable athletic-wear brands.
What factors are important when shopping for athletic wear?
Whether you’re doing some serious marathon miles, light Pilates, heavy Olympic lifting, or following the ‘athleisure’ trend where you wear gym gear to get your coffee, you need to consider the important factors in gym gear.
- Quality and durability: you want something that balances cost versus quality. You don’t want to buy something, do some squats and find you’re showing the gym your knickers, for example. Nor do you want a sports bra that gives you a band rash or leggings that ride down as you’re running. You want something that will last several wears, several washes, and perhaps several years. Are the seams comfortable? Is the fabric strong? Is it sweat-wicking? Does it have the right amount of stretch and movement?
- Fit: you’ll want clothing that fits the activity you want to do. You don’t want something too tight or too loose. You don’t want to restrict movement or trip yourself up when you’re holding your plank because your t-shirt is getting caught on your knees. Double-check the size guide for each brand to ensure you’re getting the perfect fit you need.
- Sweat control and fabric: when your body expends effort, it also expels sweat so you want breathable fabrics, that wick sweat away, and don’t smell to high heaven when you wear them. Whereas cotton and linen are beautiful quality fabrics, for your gym clothes a cotton-spandex or polyester mix is your best bet. If you’re a serious runner, you’ll also want to consider fabric weight as even that extra bit of weight will impact your aerodynamics. The fabric will also need airflow to keep you cool and dry.
- Workout type: just as tennis, golf, and skiing all require different outfits, different workouts benefit from different styles of gym clothes. Now, you can wear basic workout leggings, a t-shirt, and a sports bra to all your workouts but some people prefer looser pants for, say, yoga; shorts with built-in spandex underneath for running; and tight compression leggings for lifting.
- Support: for women, supportive bras are a must from those who are flatter chested to those who are bustier, a good supportive sports bra will keep everything in place. For bras, there’s everything from low support for lighter workouts like yoga, stretching, and pilates; to medium support for strength classes with a bit of cardio or weight lifting; to high-impact support for HIIT workouts, dancing, running, and maybe even aerial or pole.
For men, it’s a little simpler. Sweat-wicking tops will cover most workout situations. Running shorts will be slightly shorter for men to allow for movement whilst lifting shorts will be longer and have pockets.
What should I wear on my feet?
Everyone needs a good pair of trainers and comfortable socks. There are different trainer types, but that’s outside of the scope of this post. Here are the trainer types.
- Running shoes
- Walking shoes
- Tennis shoes
- Cross-training shoes
- Basketball shoes
- Weightlifting/powerlifting shoes
- Rock climbing shoes
- Spin or cycling shoes
If you’re going to be doing lots of different types of exercises, a good cross-training shoe will work for running, weightlifting, and other athletes. Plus, for things like yoga and pilates, you can just use your own two bare feet.
Let’s explore five affordable athleticwear brands for women.
About: We’ve all seen the social media ads for Fabletics. They advertise 2 for £24 for leggings or shorts for the first offer and the good news is that is absolutely correct. One of the founders of the brand is none other than actress Kate Hudson. Once you sign up, you’re on a monthly subscription-based VIP membership plan where you pay £54.99 a month and you can get an outfit or item worth up to £80 for that price. If you don’t need an outfit every month – or you’d rather scope the sale section (which has excellent sales offerings) – you can “skip the month.” Just make sure you skip the month on the first of every month (add a reminder in your calendar) or you’ll be charged for a member credit. One benefit is that the credits last two years and they have excellent customer service reps if there’s any trouble. They release new outfits and styles each month and the designs are super cute. Just have a Google! They have cute patterns, bright colours, and even metallics. They also offer matching outfits from bras, leggings, shirts, jumpers, and hoodies so you can always look stylish no matter your workout.
Price point: Once you’ve signed up for the VIP programme, you’re in it even if you skip the month and after the initial 2 for £24 offer, the outfits run anywhere from £59 to £119, but that can include four-piece outfits (some of them as low as £64 for four items).
Their Oasis PureLuxe High-Waisted 7/8 Leggings are one of their most popular items and the leggings with the pockets are the best. A pair of leggings or joggers usually costs around £54-62 per pair. The shorts are usually around £39-44 per pair. Sports bras are £29-49 per bra. Tops and jumpers are around £39-59. The best deals are found in the bundles and in buying more expensive items via member credits.
The sale section has items as low as £11-39, with most items being around £20. Since new items come in each month, things sell out fast but you can nab a bargain in the sales.
Typical outfit cost: Without the bundle discount, a pair of leggings, a bra, and a jumper will cost around £142 (and £122 with a t-shirt instead of a jumper).
Sizing: Sizes range from XXS (UK 4-6) to 3X (UK 30) and the product images show several models in a range of sizes so you’ll see how it looks on you, plus customer images.
Offerings: Any and all types of gym clothes – they have leggings, shorts, sweatpants, sweatsuits, tennis outfits, yoga clothes, accessories, hoodies, sweatshirts, socks, sports bras, shoes, swimwear, and more. And there’s even a men’s section!
Bonus info: Each time you purchase, you gain points and you can redeem points for £5-20+ off your next purchase. Plus, you get free membership to the Fabletics Fit app which has all sorts of workout videos and programmes to complete. Each month, you get personalised outfit choices in the sizes you add to your profile. It’s easy to skip the month so you don’t have to purchase frequently and you will still get the free app membership.
About: For those who want to buy British, look no further than the British gym clothing brand, Gymshark, started by two university students out of a garage and now valued at nearly half a million.
Price point: Leggings range from £30-50 per pair with joggers around £35-65 per pair. Gymshark has really cute all-in-one pieces for £30-60, which would be great for yoga and pilates. Their sports bras are around the £25-38 price point. Jackets and hoodies are around £35-50 per item. T-shirts and tops are around £18-25 per item.
Like Fabletics, Gymshark has a great sale section. You can get items from around £12-24.
Typical outfit cost: Leggings, a sports bra, and a jumper will cost around £90 per outfit with a lower-priced outfit for around £46.
Sizing: Gymshark offers sizes XS to XXL. They have an easy “find your size” calculator to help you figure out what size you’ll need where you enter your size in centimetres or inches and you can see what will work best.
Offerings: They sell workout vests, crop tops, hoodies, t-shirts, sports bras, socks, accessories, tracksuits, and leggings. Again, pretty much any type of workout clothing you need. Most of their sales originally came from men but they also sell women’s apparel.
Bonus info: This brand was one of the first to use influencer marketing, including YouTube bodybuilders Nikki Blackketter and Lex Griffin. You can get 25% off when you buy two or more pieces from selected collections, so you can buy an entire gym outfit and get a discount.
About: Superdry is perhaps better known for its parkas but they also sell athletic clothes. They combine vintage American style with Japanese-inspired graphics. The brand isn’t limited to athleisure as they sell every style of clothing from coats to jumpers to dresses to accessories.
Price point: They have bright, fun designs for leggings with visible, large branding. The leggings range from £30-40 per pair with joggers going up to £50-55 per pair. They offer more limited choices and sizes than Fabletics and Gymshark but the price point and designs are attractive. Sports bras are around £25-35 each and athletic shirts are around £23 each. Waterproof coats will set you back around £100 per coat. The sweatshirts cost around £50.
Typical outfit cost: Leggings, a sports bra, and a T-shirt will cost around £88 per outfit.
Sizing: Bottoms range from sizes 6 to 16; tops and sports bras from size 6 to 16; and coats and jumpers from size 8 to 16, so sizing is quite limited.
Offerings: Superdry offers basic gym clothes to ski and snowboarding gear.
Bonus info: You can get 10% off your first shop of full-priced items (with the popup on their website). The brand offers some sale items under £20 but their full selection of athletic clothing has a limited number of items.
#4 Sweaty Betty
About: The British retailer was founded by Tamara and Simon Hill-Norton and specialises in women’s activewear. The outfits, colours, designs, fabrics, and cuts are beautiful but it’s one of the more expensive brands on our list.
Price point: Leggings will set you back around £88 per pair (with the odd pair being £70 or £95). Shorts are around £60-65 per pair. Sports bras are around £38-60 with the higher support bras being more expensive. Sweatshirts will cost from £65-120 per item. Tops cost from £35-60 per item.
Typical outfit cost: Leggings, a sports bra, and a T-shirt will cost around £161 per outfit.
Sizing: Sweaty Betty offers XXS to XXL (UK sizes 6 to UK size 20), which is close to the size inclusivity of Fabletics.
Offerings: One benefit is you can filter by the type of activity such as spin, yoga, dance, spin, studio, and more.
Bonus info: You can get 15% off your first order.
About: Myprotein is a sports and nutrition brand from Manchester, mostly specialising in food supplements. They also offer men’s and women’s gym clothing at lower price points.
Price point: Leggings cost around £32 per pair with joggers around £44 per pair and shorts around £30 per pair. They have leggings on sale for under £15 per pair. Gym tops cost around £16-32 per item with crop tops as low as £13. Hoodies and jumpers are around £32-48 per item. Sports bras are around £30. The sale section offers great discounts with it being possible to snag a matching gym outfit for under £30-40.
Typical outfit cost: Of all the brands we’ve discussed, this one is the most affordable and you can snag a full outfit of leggings, a sports bra, and a T-shirt for around £78, with lots of opportunities for discounts and sales to make those prices even lower.
Sizing: Sizing ranges from XXS to XXL, which fits UK sizes 4 to size 18.
Offerings: Myprotein offers anything you need for the gym even down to socks and undies. Plus, they offer accessories and even maternity gym clothes. They also have different sections for workout wear for activity types like yoga and HIIT.
Bonus info: 40% off best sellers with the code BEST. You can even buy your supplements and your gym clothes at the same time.
Alternative places to shop
For those on an even stricter budget, you can find various prices at high street shops and online retailers in places like the following.
- High street shops
- TK Maxx
- MandM Direct
- Sports Direct
- Fast fashion retailers like Shein (with full outfits for as low as £22) and Primark
This list shows “quality” in descending order where shops like MandM and TK Max will offer more high-quality brand-named items than Sports Direct or Amazon – and fast fashion retailers like Shein or Primark will offer lower-quality items that may not last as long. But it varies, sometimes you snag a bargain that’s also long-lasting and comfortable.
Caring for your athleticwear
To ensure your gym clothes last as long as possible, make sure to wash your gym clothes inside out to preserve the colours as sweat and oil will accumulate on the inside of the garment. As tempting as it is to dry gym clothes in the dryer, the sweat-wicking properties or the elastic of the fabric stretch may not love the high temperature so it’s best to hang them on the washing line. Sweat-wicking fabrics won’t take as long to dry as typical cotton fabrics. But a good quality gym clothing brand can even last multiple washes and survive the dryer. Hang your sweaty gym clothes to dry if you’re not washing them straight away to reduce odour. When washing, wash in colder water and skip the fabric softener as that can break down the elasticity. Rotate your gym clothes so you’re not overusing any one outfit. If there’s a loose button or fraying seam, channel your inner seamstress and get out the sewing kit to prolong its life.
Choosing the right size and fit
Make sure that your gym leggings fit snugly without rolling down or pulling down during the workout. A sports bra should be supportive but not dig in or have any of your breast tissue spilling out over the cups. Gym T-shirts, jumpers, and crop tops can be as snug or loose as you’re comfortable with. Overall, gym clothes should be form-fitting but not too tight.
Gymshark and Superdry items are a little less expensive than Fabletics and Sweaty Betty but the clothes you choose will depend on preference as far as quality, fabrics, and fit. Fabletics and Sweaty Betty have a wider range of sizes than do other brands, especially Gymshark and Superdry which only go up to around UK size 16. On this list, Myprotein clothing is the most affordable and there are even more affordable options if you shop sales and shop around. Fabletics and Sweaty Betty are known for their fun designs, fabrics, and long-lasting quality. Let us know on Tria Beauty UK’s Facebook or Instagram what your favourite affordable gym clothing brands are.
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