How to Stretch Leggings
Sometimes, new clothes are just too tight. Indeed, it’s normal for certain garments, and footwear, to have a break-in period. This is when the item adapts to the unique shape of your body. Even if you’ve bought the right size, you might have to go through this to some extent.
It might be more difficult to stretch leggings (or any other garment) if you’re wearing the completely wrong size. But, if it’s just a matter of stretching to fit you better, rest assured, most leggings will stretch naturally in no time.
How Tight Should Leggings Be?
First, you might be wondering how tight is too tight? Let’s cover some signs you’ve gone too small and you should check the returns & exchanges policy rather than trying to stretch the leggings.
Remember leggings can look deceptively small on the hanger (especially leggings with compression). So don’t be thrown off when you first see leggings; you'll know the right size and fit when you try them on. When you do, move around in them, squat, jump, stretch. Check for wrinkles or gaps where there should be none.
Also check for transparency: You may not notice this at first, it may only be visible when you bend and stretch. So our advice is to shop with a friend, or even ask the store assistant to tell you.
Telltale Signs Your Leggings Are Too Tight
When you try on leggings, there are 3 immediate signs that will tell you the fit is too small for you and you need to size up:
- They’re hard to get on. You can’t slide them on without a lot of painstaking wriggling and shimmying. Putting on leggings shouldn’t be like putting on Spanx; they should go on relatively smoothly.
- They fit so tight, they dig in around the waist. Your leggings shouldn’t leave you with red marks around the waist, or creating a "muffin top". They should sit snug but comfortably, like a car seatbelt.
- They become transparent. Leggings or yoga pants or workout leggings are not supposed to be transparent. One reason they can become transparent is they’re too tight and the fabric is being stretched too thin.
Ways to Stretch Leggings That Are Just Too Tight
There are a number of reasons you might wind up owning leggings that are too tight. If you’ve just bought them, always check the return and exchange policy. But it could be that you’ve gained some weight or that you feel they “fit” but are a little tighter in certain areas than you’d like.
It’s unlikely that you’ll adjust leggings by a full size (if you bought the wrong size, you may be in for another purchase). However, if the leggings are just tighter around some parts of your body, you might be able to help them mold to your shape. So, if you find yourself with too-tight leggings, here are some ways to stretch them.
Just Wear Them
Just like tight shoes, the best way to “break in” tight leggings is to wear them. Elastic will always loosen over time and leggings contain a lot of it (lycra or spandex). When you put them on, they’ll stretch to fit your body and, over time, they’ll relax to hold that shape. The more you wear them, the quicker this will happen. Though, admittedly, if they’re uncomfortable this may feel like a lot to go through (similar to breaking in painful shoes).
To Stretch Spandex, Move Around a Lot in Your Leggings
When you do wear leggings, make sure you’re moving around in them. It’s the heat of your body and the movement that will cause them to stretch around the wider parts of your body. Walk, do lunges or a few downward dogs. Again, this may be a bit of a process, but in time, the leggings will start to give more in the tighter areas.
Avoid Hot Water in the Washing Machine; Wash Them With Cold Water
Hot water can cause leggings to shrink. So if your leggings are too tight, you want to put them in the washing machine on a cold water cycle. By the way, this is also the generally advised way to care for leggings and other delicates or synthetics.
By the way, that hot water can also cause elastic to snap. Although this might sound ideal to get a looser fit, you’ll probably just end up with ill-fitting leggings that are likely to be baggy in all the wrong ways. They may even start to become transparent because of the harshness of a hot wash. So stick with the cold water care instructions.
Avoid the Dryer; Air Dry Your Leggings
Similarly, dryer heat can cause leggings to shrink and/or elastics to snap. The general care instruction is to let legging air dry flat. If you want to stretch the length of your leggings, you could try hanging them to dry. The pull of gravity on the wet material may cause them to stretch. However, there are no guarantees they won’t also stretch in ways you don’t want (e.g. the waist to crotch area could stretch just as much as the legs).
So our advice is to stick with the general care instructions and air dry, laying flat to dry.
Pull Them (Gently) When They’re Wet
You can, however, gently stretch the leggings by hand when they’re damp. You can also use weights to stretch them and hold them down in a stretched position so the fabric doesn’t contract completely as it dries.
Generally, I would advise doing this very gradually and gently across a few washes. You don’t want to pull too hard and cause micro-tears in the fabric (which could cause transparency). You also don’t want to stretch the leggings too much.
… Or You Can Even Wear Leggings Damp
Arguably an even better way to stretch leggings to fit your body is to put them on when they’re a little damp and wear them until they dry. This may not sound like a nice experience but on a hot day, they should dry pretty fast. Throw them on and go for a walk on a warm day.
The reason this is a better way than using weights is because the leggings will mold to your body’s shape as they dry. The heat of your body and the dampness will soften the material, making it more malleable.
(As an aside, this is also the way we stretch shoes - if you dampen shoes a tiny bit, or even wear damp socks inside new leather shoes, they’ll soften and shape around the foot better.)
Try Soaking Them In Baby Shampoo
One internet hack is to soak too-tight leggings in baby shampoo. The rationale is that baby shampoo is exceptionally softening and gentle and it will soften the fabric of your leggings.
This will involve hand-washing them. Soak them in a mix of cold water and baby shampoo for up to half an hour and then rinse them fully. If you’re worried about this method, do a little patch test first to ensure there’s no residue left on the fabric.
You could combine this method with wearing them damp. Just let them part dry (you can pat the leggings between a towel to absorb excess moisture) and when they’re still damp, throw them on.
Note: Be Careful When Stretching Your Leggings By Hand or With Weights
Results can always vary when trying these kinds of hacks at home. There are so many variables:
- Just how tight the leggings were to start with
- How old they are (if your leggings are already stretched, they may not have any more give)
- What the leggings are made of (cotton, spandex, polyester etc.) and how that fabric lends itself to stretching
Also, as previously mentioned, there are no guarantees the leggings will stretch in precisely the way you want them to. If you want to target a specific area rather than loosen them overall, the “wearing them damp” method is mostly likely to work. If you stretch leggings manually (by pulling them) or using weights, they may just end up ill-fitting in a different way.
Things to Avoid if Your Leggings Are Too Tight
If your leggings are too tight, it’s really important to stick with the care guidelines. The wrong care can shrink leggings. Specially avoid extreme heat, like:
Hot Washing Machine Cycles
As already mentioned, a cold water wash is best for leggings. Warm or hot water can shrink your leggings, as well as causing damage to the fabric. So keep leggings away from the hot cycle.
Similarly, the dryer can shrink and damage your leggings. Per all care instructions, leggings should be air dried. This is even more the case if your leggings are already too tight. You won’t want them to become tighter.
Irons are yet another form of extreme heat. Leggings don’t usually need to be ironed, but if they do, keep the iron on a cool setting. You can also put a tea towel or pillow case between the iron and the leggings to protect them from the extreme heat.
Other Notes for Caring for Your Leggings
Choose a Gentle Detergent
Because leggings are skin tight, harsh cleaners can leave residue that really irritates the skin. I tend to treat leggings like lingerie and use a more delicate detergent with them. Don’t use too much, either. It’s always tempting to think adding more will make things cleaner. But adding more just means more residue.
Skip Fabric Softeners
Fabric softeners will leave a very noticeable residue on the top of your leggings. Not nice. This residue can also dull and discolor your leggings. If you use softener in your laundry, make sure you separate the items you want to use softener on from your synthetics before you pop them in the machine.
Wash Leggings or Yoga Pants As Frequently as Underwear
Leggings are worn right next to the skin (and the groin) so they absorb EVERYTHING. What’s more, workout or gym leggings are designed specifically to be moisture wicking. Those damp, sweaty fabrics are a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and odor, which can quickly turn yucky.
There are no hard rules about how many wears you should get out of your leggings. But I usually think about it the same way I think about my bras: If I work up a sweat, 1 wear and it gets washed. If I’m pretty sedentary, 3 wears is fine.
Also, don’t let a stale sweaty garment just sit in your laundry hamper or workout bag for a week or bacteria can breed and odor can worsen (even a quick hand-wash can be a great solution).
Care Instructions for Knix Leggings
If you’re lucky enough to own Knix leggings here are our official guidelines for washing Knix leggings:
- Machine wash cold
- Do not bleach
- Do not iron
- Do not dry clean
- Lay flat to dry