Life Style

What’s the Real Difference Between Yoga Pants and Leggings? We’re Settling the Debate

Kaia Gerber wearing black flared yoga pants.

The start of a new year brings many things: New goals, new fashion trends, and brands introducing their new athletic and athleisure lines. And while we’re scooping up leggings, joggers, and sweatshirts, a new contender is entering the athleisure game, but it’s an item that most millennials are all too familiar with. Let us reintroduce you to the yoga pant.

Yes, Yoga Pants Are Back

With the Y2K trend only continuing to grow, it’s no surprise that yoga pants were the next things to get a revival. While millennials fondly remember the athleisure pants from gym classes, 8 a.m. classes, and Target runs, fashion TikTok and celebrities including Kendall Jenner, Lori Harvey, and Hailey Bieber have also rediscovered the lounge staple.

“Yoga pants have been on the rise ever since the pandemic,” says Alex Rivera, a stylist at Stitch Fix, an online personal styling service. “While we were all home in our pajamas, they offered a comfy way for us to feel like we were dressing up and give us a small boost of confidence—even if it was just to go to the grocery store. As life returns to ‘normal,’ athleisure continues to be a trend-forward style that can be paired with high and low fashion.” This makes sense as our post-quarantine lives has made most of us realize that we no longer want to go back to jeans.

Kendall Jenner wearing flared yoga pants in Los Angeles in January 2023.

Yoga Pants: Then vs. Now

However, if you haven’t seen the exact yoga pants you remember from the ’00s at any of your favorite stores, it’s probably because it has a new name and has gotten a bit of an upgrade in the last 20 years. Yoga pants are now known by many names: Flared leggings, bootcut leggings, and even flared pants.

Yoga pants or flared leggings also look a little different than they did in the early 2000s. Original yoga pants were typically black or gray with a flared bottom and thick waistband that rolled over. New flared leggings have a range of waistbands and cuts and offer a little more flare at the bottom than their predecessor—though they’re still just as comfortable as you remember.

“Our fabrics in 2023 have really evolved from the originals 20 years ago,” says Karuna Scheinfeld, Chief Product Officer of Roots, a Canadian outdoor lifestyle brand that will be coming out with their own high-rise flare legging this July. Scheinfeld has also noticed a difference in the yoga pants of today. “The hand feel, recovery, and performance makes it even better the second time around.” Jess Parrello, buying Manger for CottonOn Body, an Australian Activewear brand, has also embraced the trend with their Yoga Flare pants being one of their best sellers. “The trend is evolving and our range will widen to offer more variety of silhouettes and fabric to support this lifestyle trend.”

Rivera has received many style requests for the pants because of “their comfort and versatility.” Amy Jordan, founder and CEO of WundaBar Pilates, has also seen the revival of yoga pants. “I’ve been teaching Pilates long enough to have seen this trend the first time around—and I’m embracing it… again!” she says. “I am still a big fan of classic fitted leggings, but a gorgeous pair of flared yoga pants with the slit up the front are making regular appearances in my work days and workouts. I find them super flattering and a fun way to mix up what I wear inside and outside of the studio space.”

Will Yoga Pants Replace Leggings in 2023? 

As flared leggings quickly rise in popularity, one may ask if they will eventually replace traditionally tight-fitting leggings as our favorite go-to pants? The answer is: Not likely. While flared leggings are popular, sales for regular leggings are still going strong, with leggings being the biggest area of growth at Roots, according to Scheinfeld. “Women are wearing them everywhere and with everything, so they’ve become part of the daily wardrobe, whether in the studio or out and about.” And considering that flared leggings took their name from leggings, it’s safe to say that the tight-fitted pants will be continue to reign at number one—at least for now.


Leggings or Yoga Pants: Which One is Better? 

While we may have our personal favorites, the debate over yoga pants and leggings really comes down to what you’re planning to do in them. If you’re looking for a pant to hit the gym in, run a mile, or do a serious workout, leggings are the only way to go.

“Leggings are the clear winner here,” says Jordan who prefers leggings to work out. The reason? Leggings are more compact and don’t get in the way of a workout the way a flare-bottom yoga pant does. “They simply stay out of the way.”

Rivera echos this, adding that leggings can offer “the right level of compression” for daily exercise.

However, if you want the comfort of athleisure without the athletic part, flared leggings may be your new go-to pant. They’re ideal for traveling, running errands, just lounging around the house, or even going out.

“One shift I’ve noticed lately is people’s willingness to style yoga pants with tops other than sweatshirts, such as blazers or cardigans, which is a simple way to elevate the look,” says Rivera. She recommends pairing flared leggings with a cropped jacket to give it some structure.

The Bottom Line

While yoga pants have asserted their comeback, leggings don’t seem to be on the outs anytime soon. Whatever the current trend happens to be—leggings, yoga pants, or flared leggings—just wear the one that makes you feel comfortable and confident.


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