You used to be able to count popular fitness brands on one hand. If you weren't wearing Nike, Lululemon, or Under Armour, did you even work out, bro? But these days, new names in the athletic and athleisure market are popping up left and right, and while some of them are meh, some are really awesome. Whether you spend seven days a week at your CrossFit gym or just love to watch Netflix in leggings on the couch (same), there's a brand on this list you'll be glad you found out about. You're welcome in advance.
Do you care about the earth? How about factory workers getting paid fair wages? Do you love crazy-soft, well-made, and super-cute activewear? If you answered "yes" to any/all of those questions, you need to meet Girlfriend Collective.
They popped on the scene last spring and ICYMI they're changing the game by making leggings, shorts, bras and tops out of recycled water bottles. Sounds uncomfortable, right? Au contraire, girlfriend. These babies are soft, stretchy, and fit like a glove. Go ahead, bend over in them—the only thing that's incredibly transparent is their website, which gives you a full rundown of their factory, manufacturing practices, and labor standards.
If you're like me, you probably have trust issues when it comes to ordering clothes online. Luckily, Girlfriend Collective goes above and beyond to help you make an educated decision with a fit guide featuring a squad of gorgeously diverse models. And best of all, these pieces won't break the bank: All of their bras are $38, and leggings range from $58-$68.
There are few things more annoying than heading out for a run and realizing you left your keys inside your apartment just as the door slams behind you (and your phone falling out of your pocket and smashing on the sidewalk is one of them).
Wanting peace of mind during his workouts, founder Terry White created a pair of men's compression shorts with sweat-proof pockets that would keep the important stuff like his keys, phone, and cash from jangling against his legs or getting soggy. He pre-sold them to friends and athletes, and after a ridiculously successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014—raising over 400 percent of the fundraising goal—Wolaco (Way of Life Athletic Co.) was up and running. Yes, pun intended.
Wolaco shorts have dudes covered with compressive, durable fabric. But if you're not up for strutting your stuff around your neighborhood or are more of a basketball shorts kinda guy, this style miiiiight not befor you (unless you're wearing them under loose athletic shorts). Not that I'm complaining about the way they fit the models on the website, because trust me, I'm not.
They've since moved into tees, tanks, a hoodie, and compression leggings, but it's all for guys as of now. Ladies won't have FOMO for long, though—this very mysterious Instagram notes that a women's line is in the works to launch this fall.
Walking into Solfire's storefront in Brooklyn is kind of like walking into your favorite coffee shop (which actually isn't far off—toward the back of the store there's a coffee bar and a serene outdoor patio), and that's kind of what founder John Ziegler was going for. While at first glance, Solfire looks like a second cousin of Lululemon, give Ziegler two minutes, and he'll tell you how the hand-picked materials and laser-focused attention to detail make them different.
"We are obsessed with our materials," Ziegler says. And he's not kidding—he and his lead designer led me around the shop and talked me through every seam, detail, and ventilation panel in the store. As of now, there's considerably more variety for dudes than for ladies, but I still walked out of Solfire with what are now my favorite compression leggings to run in. They dry in an instant, and although I had to wrangle them onto my body, they felt amazing once they were there.
Why haven't you heard of Solfire, you ask? For starters, they've primarily focused on partnering with studios like Peloton for wholesale, branded apparel. But more importantly, Ziegler has been cautious of growing too fast, too soon. "We want to make sure the partnerships we're forming and the community we're fostering are ones that we believe in," he says.
If you're a hardcore triathlete or cyclist, you're most likely already aware of Roka. Since their launch in 2013, what started as two guys trying to make wearing a wetsuit less miserable turned into a brand featuring the most innovative technical equipment on the market. Boasting award-winning performance eyewear and gear fit for an Olympian, Roka was created by athletes for athletes.
While you can find everything from swimsuits and wetsuits to run visors and layering pieces on the site, the shining star of the Roka brand is the ultralight eyewear, which defies the expectation that if you wear shades while you work out, you have to look like a bug (see: these). If you have a race coming up or just feel like treating yo' self, you should definitely give them a try. But as the saying goes, you get what you pay for, and Roka products ain't cheap—so if you're someone who loses sunglasses like socks at a laundromat, proceed with caution.
Opening a box from Roka is a lot like getting your first iPod on Christmas morning: Once I got them out of their sleek packaging, I seriously questioned whether I was responsible enough for something so nice. But once I was over my fear of losing them, I took my Phantom aviators on a 100-mile bike ride, and they were so light I almost forgot they were on my face.
In true millennial form, my relationship with Lively started with me stumbling upon their newly launched Instagram account in 2016. It was an aesthetically pleasing mosaic of bras, bralettes, and undies—or, as Lively calls it, leisurée—that looked so cute and comfortable that I needed to try them for myself. I ended up loving the brand so much that as soon as I saw they had added an active line, trying them out was a no-brainer.
Lively is all about blurring the lines between high-end style and comfort in bras and swimwear, and the activewear is no exception. That being said, while the pieces are cute and comfortable, they're not all ideal for tough workouts. The leggings are soft and perfect for yoga or a road trip, but maybe not to run four miles in. The shorts are light and unlined, so not great for your favorite HIIT class, but I wore them after lap swimming, and they were dry in no time.
Bras are what Lively does best, and it comes as no surprise that their sports bras are awesome for just about anything and anyone—the large fits up to a 36C-DD, 38A-D, and the material is sweat wicking and supportive. BTW, the site suggests you size up in the athletic styles, and I can attest: My normally XS chest needed a S for the high-neck bra, and if you're above a B cup, I'd recommend one of the styles with adjustable straps.
Aesthetics aside, one of the best things about Lively is the price—we're talking $35 active bras and shorts, and $55 leggings, which is cheaper than what you could find at Gap. #winning.
Jamey Powell is Greatist's Associate Fitness Editor, as well as a cycling instructor, yoga teacher, and triathlete. When she isn’t sweating, she’s usually eating or trying to pet someone’s dog. You can follow her antics on Instagram.