Blame it on the wellness phenomenon, the rise of athleisure or the pressure to look slick at brunch; fitness fashion has become seriously expensive. Here’s how to get the look without slimming down your wallet…
Sportswear isn’t what it once was, and in many ways, thank God for that. We’ve happily witnessed the demise of gym knickers, heavy cotton sweats and Jane Fonda style legwarmers, but while the dawn of new technology and a global fitness revolution, particularly in the case of women’s sports, have been overwhelmingly positive steps forward, some of the kit that goes alongside the fitness shift isn’t half costly. If you live in techy leggings, by all means invest, but if you’re after day-to-day sportswear that’s functional and thrifty while still maintaining some sartorial kudos, the following brands should be on your starting line. The savings made should afford you a boutique gym experience with a superfood smoothie chaser for afters, or you’ll just feel more smug and stylish doing laps in the park. Whichever way you look at it: winning.
A new contender in the sportswear market, I had a field day when a Zakti store popped up near my house recently. Founded in 2015, the London based brand caters for yogis, runners, spinners, swimmers and skiers alike, with incredibly comfortable, sweat-wicking, fabrics, waterproof outerwear and down jackets available at a snip. The brainchild of Mountain Warehouse owner Mark Neale, who was boggled by the expense of yoga bottoms on the market, there are currently two London stores, with ten more in the pipeline for the south of England. With free delivery over £30 and free returns, you’ll get bang for your buck online too, whether you go for basics or colour popping salopettes (they’ve thought of everything).
In our basket: The full-length Printy leggings in Stormy Print , £28, are more comfortable than many posh bottoms I own, with a cushy waistband that doesn’t dig in and smooth, silky material that never threatens transparency (see through seat= game over on the gym floor). Other highlights are the loose tanks, sticky barre and yoga socks and multipack hair ties. The range starts at £5, going up to £185 for a more premium ski jacket.
According to Mintel, 34% of us buy sportswear for its fashion credentials rather than for actual fitness purposes, and if you’re in that bracket, H&M is likely already a key stop on your sporty shopping sprees. Happily the athletic attire does stand up to sweat, stretching and adverse weather conditions, and neat motivational slogans can act as incentives to get moving beyond the shop floor. The tanks, long-sleeved tops and jackets impress in particular, although I’ve had a few encounters with leggings that aren’t, shall we say, full coverage. Otherwise, however, the H&M range blows rivals out of the water in terms of cut, quick dry fabric and colourways.
In our basket: Our H&M basket was admittedly huge. We hoarded all the sports vest tops , £8.99, the ‘Run Like No One’s Watching’ sweatshirt , £19.99, a down padded outdoor jacket , £34.99, a yoga mat , £24.99 and an ombré water bottle , £6.99. This sort of defeated the aim of not spending a lot, but hey, ‘Shop Like No One’s Watching’ should be a thing too.
There’s modestly priced, and then there’s Primark . For obvious reasons, the budget retailer had a huge fitness wear push in January, and the designs aren’t half bad, although clearly you’re not getting cutting-edge technical materials for your very small sums of money. From an athleisure and comfort point of view, the trainers are both surprisingly stylish and instantly comfortable, although they’re perhaps (*without doubt) best suited to city breaks rather than super marathons. Also look out for light, bright shower-proof jackets and cut-out savasanah approriate sweatshirts.
In our basket: The Black Mesh Panel Hoodie , £10, could pass for the likes of Sweaty Betty and will kit you out nicely for mild winter runs.
Just as ASOS has been shaking things up in the affordable beauty sector, so it’s now on board with activewear, catering for both big spenders and budget buyers. If you’re pre-payday, you’ll particularly appreciate brands such as South Beach, PrettyLittleThing, Only Play and Dorina, and there’s some generous premium discounts to be had too. Onsite styling gives you plenty of ideas when it comes to incorporating sportswear into your daily wardrobe if you’re trying to justify clicking the ‘buy now’ button.
In our basket: There are normally two sporting departments where it pays, um, pay, namely for trainers and sports bras, and while we maintain that the first is a hard budget nut to crack, there are a few sports bra steals out there that won’t result in sagging or breast pain. Dorina is worth a look in, especially the underwired racer back Power Bra , £18, which looks as stylish as it is supportive. South Beach Mesh Insert Active Leggings , £18, also look far flasher than their price point would suggest, with a high-rise waistband to preserve your dignity during downward dogs.
Marks and Spencer
Speaking of superior-quality boob upholstery, Marks and Spencer has been the obvious high-street stop since practically the dawn of time, so if you’re looking for a sports bra that keeps both chest and cheque books healthy, it’s hard to go wrong here. The new Rosie for Autograph range may have been designed in collaboration with a supermodel, but it hits the spot in terms of practically and understated chic, with the High Impact and Extra High Impact bras both dramatically reducing bounce in an impressive size range: from B to G cup. The pastel and neutral toned leggings feature luxe looking mesh detail, and if you’re into cropped tops there are some ballet-inspired examples in the range that would carry over nicely into everyday wear.
In our basket: The Rosie by Autograph bras at every impact level, for every workout, from £25. Sure, they’re not in the bargain bin, but you know your assets are safe with M&S.
F+F at Tesco
With the six-packed Davina McCall as F+F sportswear ambassador, Tesco mean business in terms of entering the fitness apparel market, as suggested by the rather unusual F&F Active Heart Rate Monitor Crop Top (actual monitor not included), now £12.80. The supermarket brand do offer good ‘moisture management’ (shudder) across the sportswear range, and no one will suspect that you picked up the colour blocked leggings during your weekly shop. Functional high waistbands prevail, and details such as key pockets and very inclusive styling, from petite to tall and small to extra large, ensure that you’ll get a good fit.
If you’re yet to discover Gap’s flash sales, you’re in for a treat. The Gap Fit range is hardly extortionate, but frequent temporary discounts mean that you can get a beautiful new kit designed around different workouts for a song. Shop by activity (from barre to studio class) for tailored edits or stock up on cool down classics that double up as loungewear. Our tester reported that their line is very true to size, with soft seams, smooth straps and moisture wicking prowess.
In our basket: If you’re a fan of a crop top style, low impact bra, the Coolmax® Layer Triple Strap Sports Bra , £22.95, will likely become a long-term hot yoga staple. The Breathe Tops will also keep you cool without clinging- the Off-Shoulder Ballet Long Sleeve Tee , £29.95, would look as sleek with jeans as it does with leggings at Pilates.
Since when did fitness get so expensive? We look at how to get strong without overspending…