If you have legs, wear skirts, and live in a cold climate, then you know the struggle that is shopping for tights that won’t rip immediately. To ease your pain, we obsessively tested more than 40 pairs made by 16 different brands and ranked the winners based on comfort, look, and durability. Read on for the results below, plus a few bonus reviews of the tights you should stay far, far away from. —Cory Baldwin, shopping editor
Story by Cory Baldwin. Illustration by Lauren O'Connell.
If you want to wear anything other than pants throughout the colder months, tights are an essential. But they’re also a real pain in the ass. Sometimes literally.
And tights are not cheap. Even the drugstore varieties, which often last only one wear, cost around $6 to $8. If you wear tights an average of three days a week during the fall and winter, that means the total cost could be over $600 for a single season! That’s more than most people spend on clothes for an entire year.
While a few women I spoke to have tights brands they swear by, most continue to search in vain for a pair that won't snag, run, or pull after only a few wears. As one reviewer put it, "I dread tights shopping because it's a Russian roulette of wasted money."
But does it have to be this way? Determined to find a pair I could comfortably recommend — a pair that looks good, keeps me reasonably warm, doesn’t feel like torture, lasts for several wears, and most importantly, doesn’t feel like lighting a pile of nylon money on fire — I tried on more than 40 pairs of tights made by 16 different brands (and convinced a dozen other women to join me).
The winning tights are listed by brand as well as category: opaque, semi-opaque, shaper and extended size, and best value. I’ve included winners as well as honorable mentions, because we don’t all have the same bodies, budgets, preferences, or pet peeves.
Each recommended pair has been worn at least twice and washed at least thrice (in a machine!) and come out okay. We tested for sheer pairs, too, but in this category there is truly no answer. Our tip: Go for the cheaper varieties and expect them to be one-time use, because even the expensive ones rip after one to two wears.
Winner: Wolford Individual 100 Leg Support ($85): Before you balk at the price, consider that these tights were the most opaque out of any tested, and are both extremely comfortable and flattering. They didn’t rip, tear, snag, or pull during our testing, and some of our reviewers claimed to have three- or four-year-old pairs of this style that have held up to machine washing and many wears. So if you’re truly after the best, these are it.
Honorable mentions: Wolford Mat Opaque 80 Denier ($61): All of the above, though slightly less thick (a plus for some!) and with a slightly less comfortable waistband (it’s a little thinner).
Madewell Chalkboard Tights ($24.50): While the regular opaque pair from Madewell ripped after two wears, the charcoal-colored “chalkboard” pair held up, and is a nice change from regular black. These are super stretchy and thus super comfortable, though they run a little large.
Winner: Spanx Reversible Tights ($34): With all-over control and glowing reviews from everyone who tried them for this test, these tights are a high point — especially considering the style comes in sizes A through G (the latter fitting a wearer up to 325 pounds).
Honorable Mentions: Hue Matte Opaque Shaping Tights ($18): So, the “booty lifter” is a thing now, and it looks goofy without clothes on top but works pretty well in this comfortable pair from Hue, which can fit a wearer up to 6 feet or 300 pounds.
Not Terrible: Maidenform Body Shaper Tights – Tummy Flattener ($20): The legs on this pair are super flattering, and the tummy shaper doesn’t feel the least bit offensive. The lack of control shorts (the control top is shaped like a thong instead) make them the only semi-sheer control pair we’d wear with a short skirt. But they get downgraded because of their chemical odor (three washes takes it out).
Winner: Wolford Pure 50 ($61): Sorry for choosing the expensive pair again, but they fit, looked, and felt miles above the rest, and held up well to durability testing. The opacity, with just a bit of skin (the model shot on Wolford’s site isn’t the best representation) was extremely flattering, and the wide waistband means no digging.
Winner: H&M 2-Packs ($12.99): Every pair H&M makes is a great value if you’re on a budget, but the two packs, available in a number of weights, are especially wallet-friendly. Our reviewer (who identifies as a short person) said these run a little tall but held up great after a few wears, with no sagging or stretching. The tights are mildly itchy (or maybe just not soft), but if you need a good pair for cheap, you can deal.
Hanes 24/7 Blackout Tights ($6): Hanes undercuts H&M on the price per pair here, but the brand’s tights are ever so slightly less comfortable. According to our reviewer, “the quality feels slightly higher than a drugstore brand, though perhaps not by much.”
Not Terrible: Kushyfoot Opaque Tights 3-Pack ($20): Kushyfoots can pill after several wears, but three for $20? Worth it. Plus, the namesake cushioned foot is honestly pretty comfortable.
Hue: Hue is great because the brand makes a ton of styles in a ton of colors, and the price tag doesn’t break the bank. None of the pairs ripped during our testing (though the plaid sheer fashion tights did start pilling), and the Super Opaque ($15), Opaque ($15), and shaping pairs ($15) are flattering on the leg and reasonably comfortable.
While not quite as soft as some of the more expensive brands, Hue tights are much, much, much softer than the drugstore varieties. The only drawback is a rather odd one: a slight chemical smell — I’d relate it to a hotel carpet — that disappeared after a few washes.
H&M: Almost nothing can beat H&M tights on value — these pantyhose are sold either individually or in packs of multiple pairs, making the cost per pair as low as $5. The brand’s sheer tights were among the most durable sheers we tested — Hue and H&M were the only sheer pairs that did not totally rip or run during our testing (though they did get a few pulls when being subjected to a playful dog and a tap class, respectively).
The brand also makes some extra-opaque and extra-warm pairs (including fleece-lined!) for under $15.
Wolford was one of the most asked-about brands going in: Is it a scam, or the best thing ever? Our trials confirmed that Wolford tights are in fact the most consistently comfortable, flattering, and durable. The brand also makes so many styles of pantyhose that you’ll definitely find what you’re looking for (though some, like the Comfort Cut, $67, feel a bit unnecessary) in sizes XS through XL. Annoyingly, XXL is only available for a few styles, but fits a wearer up to 6’3” or 220 pounds and up.
Some of our reviewers claim that the 80 and 100 denier Wolfords have lasted them several years; these styles, as well as the Satin Opaque Nature ($67), held up during our testing. But don’t waste your money on the sheer varieties; they looked and felt nice, but all ripped within one to two wears.
Spanx: Spanx was another one of the most commonly mentioned brands when surveying which tights to test, and they held up during our testing, too (except for the Luxe Leg Sheers, $28, which ripped after one wear).
A user favorite seems to be the Spanx Reversible Tights ($34). This pair is warm, flattering, and extremely practical — it saves room in your drawer and gets you two-for-one price-wise with black on one side and brown, navy, or gray on the other.
Uniqlo was another brand that reviewers claimed can last for years — an impressive feat when it comes to tights. However, the brand loses marks for variety. The Heat Tech 60 Denier Tights ($9.90) are great and super warm, but if you want to go thicker/warmer, you have to settle for cable, ribbed, or herringbone knit tights ($14.90).
These are nice for some situations (and personal styles), but not all. Open letter to Uniqlo — please start making a 100 den black Heat Tech tight!
For a pair of basic black opaque tights (not usually my style — I tend to want sheer), these "blackouts" are a decent option. The quality feels slightly higher than drugstore brand, though perhaps not much. I'm pretty tall, and the small fit me comfortably, so I would say they are generous in size. They don't cut into you at any awkward place, which is my biggest pet-peeve. The deal-breaker for me was that they seemed to give an uneven tone to my legs, particularly on the upper thighs, even though the fit seemed good. These tights got a minor run the second time I pulled them on, but I tend to treat my tights rough. Warmth, durability, and comfort are the strengths here, but I wouldn’t recommend them for a picky buyer.
While the legs of these tights were soft and comfortable and the rise was right — hitting me just above the navel, where I like it — the waistband ran inexplicably, infuriatingly small. For reference, I have a 26-inch waist, but typically size up in tights to account for my 5'10" height, so I tested these in a size M/L — the largest size American Apparel offers. Not only was I constantly and uncomfortably aware of the waistband the entire time I was wearing these tights, but it also left an angry red mark around my waist. They also got slightly drop-crotchy as the day went on, riding down about an inch or so (not as bad as some pairs I've tried, but still not optimal).
Durability was the lone category where American Apparel shined; my tights didn't snag, run, or pill at all over the course of my two-day test. I wore them all day at the office, and then during the weekend while cleaning my apartment. But that too-tight waistband was an absolute deal-breaker. While admirably snag-proof, they were just so damn uncomfortable, and it concerns me that — again — the size I tested was the largest one American Apparel makes.
I really liked the fit and feel of these — they're significantly nicer than the $4.99 drugstore sheers I usually buy. Unfortunately, they didn't last any longer — within five hours, my big toes punched holes through both feet and sent runs up my ankles. Then, I yanked too hard pulling them up and stuck a finger straight through one of the legs. (Granted, I was much rougher with them than I'd normally be, in part to test them out and in part because I was drunk at a wedding.)
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