Lululemon Align vs a $23 Amazon lookalike: We put these cult-favorite leggings to the test

8 months ago 6

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This article is part of our series Battle of the Brands, in which we compare category-leading products to their counterparts to determine which are actually worth your money.

Between the self-care explosion — from yoga and Pilates to meditation — and the pandemic’s resultant work-from-home situation, women are wearing leggings longer and more often than ever before. As such, we’ve become more judicious about which leggings are actually worth investing our money in. Fit, comfort, design and style are musts, as are name brand and cost.

In recent years, Lululemon’s Align Pants have become a cult-favorite item thanks to their “buttery soft” fabric that makes wearing them 24/7 an easy decision, and a fit that skims the body rather than pinches or droops. Need proof? The pants have more than 20,000 reviews and the #Lululemonalign hashtag on Instagram has more than 9,000 posts attached to it, ranging from influencers’ workout videos and try-on sessions to on-the-go street shoots. While reviewers are hard-pressed to find fault in Align, the price would likely be high on the “cons” list — each pair typically runs between $98 and $128.

Equally popular on Amazon are Colorfulkoala’s Buttery Soft High-Waisted Yoga Pants, which have a whopping 46,000 positive reviews — hundreds of which liken the pants to Align — and a much (much) cheaper price tag at $23 per pair.

What’s so great about these leggings, which we named the best workout leggings? They are soft and slinky and literally skim your curves, from waist to ankle. Second, there’s the fabric. Called Nulu, the material is über-soft, sweat-wicking and has a four-way stretch. You can move in these pants — whether you’re doing hot yoga or hopping in and out of your car doing errands.

Our pick for the best budget leggings of the year, the Colorfulkoalas are available in more than 40 colors and are just as soft as Lululemons, but at a fraction of the cost.

Lululemon’s Align and Colorfulkoala’s Buttery Soft are both ultra-popular pants designed for yoga. The chief selling point of both options is the super-soft fabric they’re made of.

Align is comprised of the brand’s proprietary “Nulu” fabric, which is a combination of nylon and lycra that is sweat-wicking, stretchy and, as I’ve mentioned more than a few times, buttery soft. I’ve been an Align devotee for years and can attest that the leggings are great for low-impact exercise like Pilates or yoga — and that they’re so comfortable (and flattering) that I end up wearing them the whole day after my morning workout. Unlike other yoga pants, the Align fabric doesn’t constrict, squeeze or pinch your body, instead it skims over your shape without creating any sort of muffin-top situation.

Lululemon's Align leggings (left) and Colorfulkoala's leggings (right)

Having tested Colorfulkoala’s Buttery Soft pants as well, I can say that the nylon/spandex fabric is the closest I’ve ever seen to the Nulu softness, but it’s not quite as buttery as the Align and they have a sheen to them. I didn’t mind the sheen at all, but the Align leggings definitely have a softer, matte texture. Interestingly enough, the Colorfulkoala pants are brushed on the interior and that texture is nearly exact to Align — so they do feel identical on the inside of the leggings, but on the exterior they are shinier.

Given Align’s matte texture, the fabric can be prone to catching lint or stray hairs, which is more visible on darker colors and patterns. I didn’t experience this with the Colorfulkoala leggings, however, because the fabric’s slight sheen doesn’t attract debris.

Lululemon's Align leggings (left) and Colorfulkoala Buttery Soft leggings (right)

More about that fabric: Align’s Nulu fabric is completely opaque. Maybe it’s attributable to the brand’s “see-through pants scandal” from a decade ago, but you’re never going to see someone’s underwear during a downward-facing dog if they’re wearing Align. And nowadays, Lululemon is also double-lining its lighter hues to triple-confirm the coverage (which results in a thicker, cozier feel to the legging). Undies aside, the fabric density also camouflages the other bits you might want to conceal (read: cellulite, a tummy roll, whatever).

The same cannot be said for Colorfulkoala’s coverage. I tried the leggings in both black and a lighter mauve pink hue and while the black had me covered, the pink was very see-through. I actually wore the pants to Pilates and spent much of the class feeling overexposed. Not just due to my underwear lines being visible, but also those aforementioned bits that I’m not dying to show off — the pant fabric is so thin that, especially in a lighter color, you can see every detail of your tush, legs and beyond. I did appreciate that the waistband is lined, which provides decent tummy control.

Two pairs of Lululemon's Align leggings (left) and the Colorfulkoala leggings (right)

In terms of design, both pants are pretty much identical, with flat, exposed seams cut exactly the same way. I didn’t experience any drooping or sagging with either pair — both stay put all day long. The Align waistband is a bit more generous, coming in at 3/8 inches longer than the Colorfulkoala pants’ and thus providing slightly more tummy coverage. Align leggings also have a hidden waistband pocket for keys, cash or credit card, which is a thoughtful detail.

Both the Lululemon Align and Colorfulkoala High Waisted Yoga Pants are very comfortable to wear all day long. I wasn’t racing to take either pair off after working out, which is a good sign! While their fabrics aren’t identical, both are incredibly soft, and given that their designs are so similar, they fit the same way, contouring your curves rather than pinching or squeezing. Yes, the Colorfulkoala pair are thinner, which affects coverage, but it doesn’t affect comfort at all.

Lululemon Align High-Rise Pant

Colorfulkoala Buttery Soft High-Waisted Yoga Pants

Sizes Lengths Fabric Color options Number of reviews Care

0 to 20

XS to XL

17”, 21”, 23”, 25”, 28”, 31”

25”, 28”, "full length"

80% nylon, 20% lycra

80% nylon, 20% spandex

20+

40+

20,000+

 46,000+

Machine wash cold, line dry

Machine wash and dry

Lululemon’s Align leggings are the sure bet and worth the investment. Yes, you can buy four to five pairs of Colorfulkoala pants for every one pair of Align, but the quality of Align far outweighs the competition. I’m writing this story while wearing a pair of five-year-old Align leggings that still look and fit like they’re brand-new — the ROI is legit.

Ultimately what it came down to for me is that I can’t endorse Colorfulkoala’s inconsistent coverage. While the black pair did provide opaqueness, the fabric is still thinner than Align’s Nulu, and that left me feeling more vulnerable, especially as I was doing squats and lunges on a reformer machine. The Align fabric is bulletproof when it comes to coverage and leaves me feeling more confident when I wear them. As a mom of four in my 40s, that is worth the price of admission.

If budget is a concern, however, Colorfulkoala is a decent legging to buy, but I’d advise sticking to the darker colors and patterns to be safe.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailers' listed price at the time of publication.

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