When you’re completing a round of sprints or jump squats during a HIIT session, you don’t want ill-suited workout clothes taking you out of your zone. Before you head to a class or log on to stream a class, you’re smart to suit up in gear designed for high-intensity workouts.
First off, you’ll want to find a sports bra with adequate support. Sports bras are typically labeled for use during low-, medium-, or high-impact workouts. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts are often (though not always) high-impact workouts, and it’s best to go with a sports bra within that category if you know you’re in for exercises that take both feet off the ground. “These bras allow you to do all the jumping, running, and quick bursts of movements that HIIT requires while keeping you fully contained and held close to your body,” says Arianna Levin, design director at Adore Me.
You may want to opt for a higher neckline, too. “As a girl that has a bigger sized chest, when doing a HIIT workout, I avoid wearing low V-cut sports bras,” says DanceBody master trainer Ris Finazzo. “The last thing I want is my chest spilling out of my top.” Similarly, high-waisted leggings or shorts are less likely to slide down, she notes.
You can anticipate that you’ll break a sweat, so it’s best to choose clothing made with fabrics that are labeled as “moisture wicking,” “quick drying,” and/or “breathable,” says Kira Stokes, trainer and creator of the Stoked Method and KS Fit app. “Cotton absorbs water, so you’ll want to avoid this type of fabric,” Levin adds. “Even though it’s breathable, it’s going to hold onto your sweat and can become uncomfortable.”
Form-fitting silhouettes are preferable, Stokes says. “I would suggest staying away from wide-leg pants and baggy clothes in general during HIIT workouts — or any workouts for that matter,” she says. “In addition to excess material getting in the way during movement, it’s really important to be able to see your body in action, in my opinion.” This will allow you or your instructor to better keep an eye on your form, she explains.
Consider taking that a step further and opting for compression fabric, recommends Stokes. “You want to feel properly ‘held in,'” she says. “Some leggings and sports bras actually offer compression levels that can improve oxygen flow to your muscles which may have a positive impact on performance and recovery.” That said, you don’t want to take it too far, wearing clothes that constrict your movement or, in the case of sports bras, your ability to fully expand your lungs.
No workout ‘fit is complete without a pair of suitable shoes. “As far as sneakers, it really depends on the programming of the HIIT workout and the fitness enthusiast’s specific foot,” Stokes says. “In general, you want a neutral shoe with little to no heel drop so your posture isn’t impacted.” Heel drop is the difference in height between the heel and toe of the shoe. “Zero-drop shoes” have the same level of cushioning all the way across, putting the toe and heel at the same level.
“If there is a lot of jumping programmed, you may want a shoe that offers max level cushioning,” adds Stokes. Ideally you’ll have your gait analyzed to find what’s best for you, since sneaker needs are so individualized, she says. In general, lightweight cross-training shoes tend to work best for HIIT sessions.
With all of the above factors in mind, here’s the best workout gear for HIIT workouts.