Leggings as Pants

It’s a tough row to hoe, sharing one’s principles on the internet.

Because sometimes you end up changing those principles. And there’s nothing the internet loves more than hypocrisy.

For instance, the time that I made fun of Toms, then had to admit that it was all my son would wear – and worse, that I was starting to like them.

Since I wrote that, my son’s collection has only grown, Ali has a couple of pairs, and I now own four (four!) pairs of Toms myself, with one more on the way.

Toms Collection

I know. Right? I should fire me.

But leggings not being pants is a principle I’ve long stood by. Crotches were meant to be covered by more than cotton/lycra stretch fabric – because extraordinarily unsightly things can happen when they’re not.

But then.

Then I began running this summer.

Running voraciously, daily, and passionately.

There was no problem at first because it was summer – I was running in shorts and a tank top, blissfully unaware at the wretched corner I was self-painting into.

I realized my error and began fretting as we entered September. It wasn’t time to make the decision yet, but I knew it was coming.

What would I wear for cold weather running?

This was a serious situation for me to grapple with. A perception-shattering dilemma. A potentially credibility-crushing decision.

I realize that running leggings are not at all the same thing as an Aztec-print legging that doesn’t line up in the crotch. But my town is brimming over with girls who wear workout leggings to hang out at Starbucks with full makeup and hair to accompany them, and I admit I’ve judged that, as well. It’s the “I want to look like I’ve been working out so I can get away with this outfit but I still want to look good while doing it” look.

At least I am aware of my stranger-judging problem. And that I am a terrible person.

So I began considering my options.

…There were loose running pants. This seemed fraught with issue. Knowing my level of grace I was sure to get my foot tangled in the cuff right as I was passing by a cliff and fall to my death.

No, I don’t want to die over my stand on pants.

…There were the skirt-over-leggings running pants.

I wore enough skorts in Junior High. No.

…I could wear shorts over my leggings. This was the most reasonable option, but it felt rather like a homeschooler trying to be overly modest at a 90’s track meet.

(I have reason to feel this way. We actually had to sew extra-wide ribbons on the ends of our already-long Umbros for our track meets. I feel it necessary to say that even the homeschool parents thought this practice was ridiculous – it was the private school sports association hosting the track meet that required such full coverage, along with the sleeved t-shirts.)

Track Meet Nineties

Umbros have never felt so violated.

(It should also be noted that there were no corresponding Rules of Decency for males at this track meet, as my brother’s Creeper Mustache more than adequately proves.)

Shorts-over-leggings was not a viable option for me.

And so my choices seemed to sift through my fingers, nothing left but grossly trespassing my principles.

And trespass I did.

I clenched my teeth, balled my hands up into determined fists, and bought four pairs of running leggings – one pair’s tag even used the phrase “Running Tights.”

And I wore them.

In public.

With a shirt not covering my butt.


And when I finished running, I went to Target.

And I bought coffee.

And I even ate a meal out with my husband.

And I judged myself harshly.

Then one day, the universe gave me the opportunity to complete my full level of hypocrisy – I went running after being super dressed up for something else.

So I was in public in running clothes and full makeup and hair. Which means that perhaps all those other girls at Starbucks had also just been running in their full makeup and hair. And that I’m a terrible person.

Chris demanded that I take a photo of my moment of breaking every principle I held dear (and looking downright ridiculous).


At least you can’t see my leggings as pants. Or the Frappuccino.

40 thoughts on “The Day I Started Wearing Leggings as Pants.

  1. Rachel Zannis Callahan. I can’t believe you have stooped to this level. Tsk tsk tsk….seriously? Tights as pants. What is the world coming to? I’m just over here shaking my head.

  2. I’m living this right now, too. Like you, I judged. And like you, I started running. And then going to PT for a subsequent injury, which also requires wearing exercise clothes and doing very unlady-like stretches in a public place. I have struggled with ways to cover my butt, but I agree that the running shorts over leggings just looks silly. As do my husband’s XL tee-shirts. So I am trying hard to embrace leggings as pants. And reminding myself how super-cute Willow’s little tushy looks in her tight jeggings.”‘Cause mine is just as cute, right? ;)

    1. I should also mention, that I am MORTIFIED to let my mom see me in leggings-as-pants. I know she would judge and judge harshly – lol!

  3. I totally wear leggings as pants, but for the good of the NATION I make sure I wear a shirt that covers my a–. . I mean, I’m just not that hot. ;-)

  4. I’ve been discussing this very issue with another blogger on my Facebook page today! Here’s the thing: running leggings are totally different from the lightweight knit, often see-through leggings that some girls try to pass off as pants. Thick, heavy leggings are even OK in my book. So running leggings? I see those as perfectly acceptable, especially if you ACTUALLY WEAR THEM TO RUN. Now women who wear yoga pants or running leggings but actually never go to yoga or go running? Obviously they want to wear PJ pants in public but they know that’s a faux pas, so they wear workout clothes instead. So that’s my opinion on leggings: leggings that are actually tights = bad. Thick leggings that are worn with tunics or longer shirts or dresses = OK. Running leggings worn to work out = OK. (And I run errands in my workout gear before or after working out all the time! A girl’s got a lot to do!)

    1. Yes, running leggings are different, for sure. They don’t even show panty line! Which is good because no one should wear a thong to run – even though I actually saw performance running thongs the other day.


      1. Don’t say “who does that”! You have already fallen twice on your words. That might be your next one. Haha. Love it!

  5. Rachel, no!!!!! Lol at least you have the body for it. At the moment I cannot and will not do it!! One day, perhaps!
    Don’t change your outlook on lace, high waisted shorts, ok.? Then I’ll have to pick on you!

  6. I am in no position to pass judgment on your hypocrisy, since I have adopted yoga pants, workout tees, sports bras, and hoodies as my weekend uniform. I use the fact that I have to dress nicely for my office job five days a week as justification for my slovenly weekend habits.

  7. Someone painted jeggings on some model in NYC and she went prancing around with a camera following to see if anyone noticed. I’m pretty sure that’s the bottom of this barrel and you’re nowhere near that yet. :)

  8. Hilarious! My favorite is your brother’s mustache. Cracks me up! And I totally judge those women too (the ones at Starbucks with running clothes and full makeup and hair). I promise not to think badly of YOU if I ever see you out in public like that!

  9. Lol, that track picture cracked me up! Mostly because it made me remember that we had to pay a bunch of extra money to make our Cheerleading skirts go down to just above our knees. And they were doubly swishy and all over. Private Christian school!

    I am currently wearing yoga pants, which I used to swear I would never wear except to work out, but now it’s like, hey I’m going to work out at some point today…might as well wear them all day right?? Saves on laundry. Haha :)

  10. Workout leggings are totally different from regular leggings, though! I am completely against regular leggings as pants, but I do wear workout leggings to workout. Workout leggings are thick enough so they skim over the areas no one needs to see. Unless you buy too small of a size…

    I personally don’t think even tunic tops that just cover the butt look very nice with leggings. The world doesn’t need to see that much thigh, certainly not on me, anyway. One day while I trying to decide if a tunic sweater was really long enough to wear with leggings, my husband asked, “would you wear it by itself without leggings?” Of course, the answer was “no way!’ That’s become my rule now- if I wouldn’t wear it with bare legs, I won’t wear it with leggings. I’ll move up the ladder of decency to skinny jeans or pants. ;)

  11. I grew up as a dancer so leggings have always been a staple for me, but I try my best to keep my butt covered! I think you’ll be fine with it, some girls really shouldn’t do the daily legging look.

  12. I’m running into a similar dilemma! Which pants did you find that you like? My other dilemma? How to keep my ears warm while running. I think those headbands are super cute on other girls but I have short hair so it just makes the back flip out like a duck tail. I can’t seem to find any other options :( A girl’s gotta look good while running!!

  13. I actually aspire to wear running leggings as pants. My trainer does and damn does she look good. Could have something to do with what freaking good shape she is in.

    Ooooooooh the double standard for male and female dress in conservative circles!!!!!! It gets my blood boiling. I went through a church internship after high school where the girls were constantly antagonized by leadership about the modest dress code, but the boys were constantly encouraged to ditch their shirts while working out and wore Speedos for swim workouts. It. Pissed. Us. OFF. It still gets my blood boiling. If you couldn’t tell. Maybe I have some latent Speedo related trauma I need to deal with.

  14. I need a copy of that picture! Refresh my memory, but I do not remember any other school doing that to their shorts. The days before digital… not enough pictures!

    Oh, and I had to add the bands to my camp shorts too. I think my family was the only one who took the rules seriously. :/

  15. This post has been most informative… First, I must admit: I too, have judged. But perhaps, I will think “oh good, she’s getting healthy” instead of the usual, “tights are not pants!!” I will try!
    BUT, the best part was where you accidentally solved the problem of buying shorts for my 6 year old daughter: ADD lace or ribbon! AHA! I mean the shorts out there right now are definitely not Umbro length!
    So I thank you for that! (fab photos!)

  16. It takes allot of nerve to wear running leggings out in public. I started out with running in less populated areas wearing shorts over top of my tights. I didn’t like running with shorts so I soon ditched the shorts and just wore the leggings as pants meaning my butt was not covered at all. Gradually I grew some confidence and started running on the streets in my neighbor hood in the early mornings believing no one would see me. I found it amazing how many people must be thinking the same as me as I would pass a dozen or more people running in tights like they were pants. Gaining even more confidence I teamed up with a group of men and women runners that were all wearing leggings. This was the first time I actually seen men wearing leggings the same way women would and you really couldn’t tell men’s leggings from women’s. I convinced my self that if guys can wear tights outdoors then women could certainately wear them any where. Nearvously I started to wear my leggings on errands and out to the mall. My boyfriend took some pictures of me in public wearing leggings as pants and when I looked at them I thought I really look good in leggings. Leggings have become my best friend.

  17. Just you wait…one day you’ll look turn around and look at your butt in the mirror, realize that all of that running has paid off SWEETLY, and you’ll actually buy leggings that aren’t for running.
    Newly Fit Girl Who Is Wearing Fleece-Lined Leggings as Pants (and NOT covering up her awesome butt)

  18. Leggings are great. And you can do joggers, which are basically leggings, but with a touch more “sweats” vibe. But the important thing is they have to go to your waist too. No low rise anything is allowed. Nike dri fit, and new balance are my faves, and are LuLu lemon high rise pants. I have to admit, they do get boring after a while, but they look really cute.

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