Between my frequent yoga routine and my side job as a certified personal trainer specializing in orthopedic sports, I spend an inordinate amount of time wearing, thinking, and writing about leggings. So I was super excited to try out Maät’s leggings, which are specially designed for practicing yoga without buying any extra cushioning halfway through.
While yoga is notoriously gentle on joints—if you skip any jumps, its impact is fairly minimal, and it encourages deep, rhythmic breathing to facilitate movement—yoga without a mat can be painful and distracting. Grab a pad and you should be fine, right? not so fast. While a yoga mat has long been considered a must-have accessory for any successful yoga practice, research in the Journal of Phenomenology and Practice suggests that a mat is a barrier to entry for some because it forces us to amass “something more” in our yoga connections The names of our bodies. “When it comes to ‘serious’ practice,” writes author Gillian Lemermeyer, “the idea that a mat is necessary, even essential, persists.”
Like yoga mats, we’re constantly changing the way we think about and use leggings (how many times will TikTok force me to buy one that’s crumpled like an angry face on the ass?). What was once considered an 80s cardio essential is now a wardrobe staple for casual and advanced yogis alike, making room for leggings to enter the market with unique features including built-in knee pads to replace what you need Carry a towel on your lap. This is where Maät comes in.
Adding built-in knee pads is a fantastic way to make yoga more accessible to those who suffer from pain or are limited by the space and weight of a yoga mat.
When Maät founder and designer Fiona Devaney noticed she needed to keep a towel under her knees in yoga poses to relieve pain, she found a more time-saving solution: leggings with built-in knee pads, inspired by Comes from a blissful built-in pad she once experienced wearing a wetsuit while surfing. The brand’s 1.0 Legging was born out of this discovery, featuring built-in moto-style tapered knee pads designed with a soft, durable material that provides light compression and four-way stretch. They come in five universal colors, ranging from army green to metallic, and are priced at $148 each. Who are they for? Anyone who needs some extra TLC in the knee area, or anyone who doesn’t have a mat to practice with – either because they’re traveling or just can’t be bothered to bring it to the studio.
There’s so much to love about these leggings. Their compression material and high-rise fit provide a tucked-in feel, which not only provides extra comfort, but reduces muscle fatigue, increases power output, and reduces joint and muscle strain. In a wear test in a power yoga class, the seams felt secure in poses that require an advanced range of motion for the hip flexors, such as standing ajar, happy baby, and restrained bird of paradise. From a visual standpoint, knee pads are a far cry from the nerds you strapped on before rollerblading on the boardwalk. Curved seams around the pad are purposely designed to elongate the leg while offsetting any bulk.
The pads themselves are 100% foam covered in polyester and spandex, which is genius. When I practice on hardwood floors and living room rugs, they provide a dreamy, pillowy feel that makes me prefer to stay in a knee-centered position, which I hate, but I know I should do more often, Such as cat-cow pose, camel and bird dog. Luckily, I had my patella issues addressed in physical therapy a few years ago, and I can totally see how these leggings can support those with knee discomfort during practice, whether degenerative or post-surgery (in under the supervision of their doctor) or a physical therapist, of course).
In addition to power yoga, I also tested these leggings in a Pure Barre class, which requires participants to spend more time on all fours while performing exercises like modified push-ups and glute kicks. This puts too much stress on the standing knee, which can affect stability and engagement through the working leg. This time around, I feel like I can go on forever, all because of the added support my standing knee has on the built-in knee brace.
For technical leggings like this, I was surprised how easy they are to maintain. As with any performance tights, they keep in best condition when hand washed and line dried, but they can also be machine cycled in cold water on a gentle cycle from the inside out (be sure to avoid folding them at the knee pads) for storage to maintain its shape).
While I appreciate yoga-forward marketing, the brand is short selling itself by categorizing itself into that narrow box. For someone who spends a lot of time doing housework, gardening, or any other physical activity that requires a transition from sitting to standing, I think these leggings are nothing short of miraculous. I scrub my bathroom in leggings all the time and let me tell you, my toilet has never been cleaner.
As a short guy at about 5’3″, my knees sit much lower than the average person’s knees, or at least lower than the prototype the brand used when designing these leggings. This means the built-in knee pad sits right below the knee on the shin, and I don’t necessarily need any pads during workouts. Because of this mismatch, I experienced a lot of binding at the ankle, which not only caused mild discomfort and sensory overload, but also limited ankle mobility and range of motion. Once I gathered the material at the thigh, I was able to experience the bliss of the knee pad. While the knee pads aren’t an eyesore by any means, you do feel their presence when you’re walking or standing, making it — for me — more of a nuisance than it’s worth.
Although the brand was kind enough to send me two of their pair – the charcoal and black leggings – I was drawn to the charcoal for their sleek, high-performance fit made of polyester and elastane Tula fabric, reminiscent of Lululemon Wunder Train Leggings I have everything from hot yoga to Peloton boot camp. The charcoal version offers more wicking properties than the black version, and the brand’s original, made of supplex and spandex, reminded me of the casual-friendly Everlane 24/7 leggings I reviewed last year (and checked in immediately). If you sweat a lot, the material used in black leggings may not be right for you. Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about any sweat stains because it’s so pigmented.
The great thing about a yoga mat is that it cushions almost every aspect of your body during practice. What worries me about using these leggings alone (without the cushion) is that the user now lacks wrist support when doing downward dog or quadruped, or lacks head support when doing shavasana or supine spinal twists. Your best bet is to pair these leggings with a pad, or if that’s not feasible, use some kind of travel-friendly microfiber towel to soak up sweat and extra impact.
Workout clothes — especially leggings — are a very personal choice because our bodies are all shaped differently and so are our movements. Adding built-in knee pads is a fantastic way to make yoga more accessible to those who suffer from pain or are limited by the space and weight of a yoga mat. While I had to manage to keep them aligned with my knees, taller folks might find these leggings the difference between skipping workouts due to restrictions or enthusiastically maintaining a yoga routine. At the very least, they make an excellent gift for those athletic friends who seem to have it all, but could totally benefit from a practical wardrobe staple, whether on or off a mat, or maybe even without it.