Great fitness attire is expertly cut so that it adheres to the body without getting in our way while we run, stretch and sweat. The right activewear can actually help to enhance performance or at the very least support certain body parts that, uh, jiggle in ways that can be totally uncomfortable and distracting.
But it's not all about function — we want our workout clothes to look good too. And if a workout outfit can seamlessly transition from a yoga class to happy hour — well, that's perfection. Unfortunately, some companies — ahem, Lululemon — are using this as an opportunity to sell their attire for sky-high prices.
Instead of getting annoyed with luxury brand prices, we can invest in one or two pieces from high-end brands, if that's our desire, and focus on stocking up on basic workout clothing from one of these fantastic 10 stores and online retailers.
1. Forever 21
From $7 tank tops to $17 capri pants, Forever 21 helps you easily stock up on every single one of your workout clothing needs, whether you're a runner or yogi. They have a lot of basics, but you'll also find some trendy items, like mesh panel leggings.
There's a reason why Jockey has been around forever: Women trust that when they purchase one of their sports bras, which range from about $10 to $35, they're going to be so comfortable and soft that their bra is the last thing they'll be thinking about while they work up a sweat. Many of their styles also feature removable foam bra cups, which are perfect for women who want extra coverage and shape.
No matter how you choose to get your heart rate up, Athleta has a tank, sweater or sneaker to suit you and your favorite sport. But the cool brand excels at active swimwear, which they've managed to make both functional and pretty. Their prices aren't always cheap — but you can usually put together a cute outfit for under 100 bucks.
If the thought of leaving your house in tight yoga pants is not at all appealing, consider Marika. They offer comfy — but stylish — pants for around $50, which you can easily see yourself wearing out on a coffee date. This fabulous brand also offers shape-enhancing pieces, like tummy control skorts and capri pants that give you that little boost of confidence you need to push your workout to the limit.
The geniuses who came up with a way for us to exercise and not have to deal with our own sweat deserve to be knighted. JunoActive, a trusted plus-size brand, offers basic leggings, T-shirts and tanks, many of which feature SoftWik fabric that lets your skin breathe and helps evaporate sweat. Their prices range from about $40 to $60 depending on the piece and fabric.
Like Jockey, Reebok is an oldie, but a goodie. There are few brands that compare when it comes to covering all of your workout needs and Reebok is known for keeping up with trends — which is evident in the fact that they offer an entire CrossFit line. Almost every item, including their jackets, can be found for less than $100. You won't find super-girly clothing here, but everything is extremely functional and cool.
7. Old Navy
On those days when you just want a cute T-shirt and pair of leggings without all of the fuss, Old Navy has you covered. Sure, they offer a line of GoDRY tank tops — but, unlike some other brands, they don't jack up their prices or make a big deal about them. You can grab a tank for $8 or colorful capris for $15 and focus on your workout, not your clothing.
8. Under Armour
We know what you're thinking: Under Armour is not cheap. You're right, it isn't. But, that $45 you spend on a quality pair of lightweight leggings that feature UA HeatGear fabric will never snag or lose its shape. UA pieces feel like a second skin and, for that reason, you won't regret investing a little more for a tank, tee or pair of pants that last forever.
Fabletics is the athletic attire brand co-owned by Kate Hudson — but, you guys, it's the total opposite of a celeb brand because it's actually affordable. And cute. Did we mention cute? An adorable 3-piece outfit usually runs about $60 if you're a VIP member of the site. No, seriously.
You didn't think we'd get through this post without mentioning the Gap, right? The fact remains: No matter where you live, you'll find a Gap — and its prices, especially when they're having a sale, are always reasonable.
A version of this article was originally published in April 2015.