tracksuit bottoms vs sweatpants

Tracksuit bottoms vs sweatpants: what is the difference?

Amon Fearon - February 06, 2023

While there are similarities, tracksuit bottoms and sweatpants are distinct garments with properties that set them clearly apart. And with the rise of the athleisure trend, sweatpants are becoming acceptable attire in an increasing number of contexts.

So read on if you’re not familiar with the differences between these two types of trouser - both in terms of what they are and how to wear them - because we’ve put together this blog post to clear up any ambiguity.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What are tracksuit bottoms?
  • How should tracksuit bottoms fit?
  • How to style tracksuit bottoms
  • What are sweatpants?
  • How should sweatpants fit?
  • How to style sweatpants?

Before we get started, let’s briefly cover the similarities.

Tracksuit bottoms and sweatpants are designed to be comfortable and casual, and both are seen just as frequently in active settings as they are in living rooms. Each is made from soft fabric, sometimes with an elasticated waistband and drawstrings to give a comfortable fit. Because there is overlap some people use both terms interchangeably.

What are tracksuit bottoms?

Tracksuit bottoms - also called joggers, jogging bottoms or training bottoms - are trousers designed for everyday wear. While they are suitable for training or downtime, tracksuit bottoms are generally intended for physical activity. 

These soft trousers are built to be comfortable regardless of the setting, but with a focus on supporting activity and keeping you at peak performance throughout. 

Of the two, tracksuit bottoms are usually more fashion-facing than sweatpants. A more streamlined fit accentuates the figure and gives tighter lines to your outfit, as opposed to the loose, baggy shape.

The material used for tracksuit bottoms will vary depending on the price point, with synthetic fabrics like polyester and elastane often being blended to achieve performance.

Higher quality tracksuit bottoms are defined by breathable fabrics that allow airflow and moisture wicking in performance settings, as well as more stretchable materials to facilitate movement and comfort.

How should tracksuit bottoms fit?

Generally speaking, tracksuit bottoms should have a slimmer fit than sweatpants. This can enhance mobility and reduce chafing. Often the waistband is elasticated or has a drawstring while the leg cuffs do not, but this varies between styles.

There are several styles of tracksuit bottom, including:

  • Basic length, aka lounge joggers: the default design, featuring an elasticated or drawstring waistband, full length legs, and a non-elasticated leg cuff
  • Cropped, aka capri pants: tracksuit bottoms that are cropped at the calf, giving a slightly shorter fit
  • Drawstring: similar to basic length except that the elasticated waistband is replaced by a drawstring, giving you control over the tightness of the fit
  • Elastic cuff: these tracksuit bottoms do have an elasticated leg cuff, giving a more tapered look with less bagginess around the feet
  • Baggy: sometimes you want a baggier aesthetic, and these tracksuit bottoms are designed to accommodate

How to style tracksuit bottoms

As their emphasis is on activity and performance, style might not be at the forefront of your mind when wearing tracksuit bottoms. But if you are keen to go a bit more stylish, here are some pointers.

DO wear t-shirts

Joggers and a t-shirt, what better combo is there if you’re planning a workout? The tracksuit bottoms are geared towards performance and the t-shirt will keep you cool on the top half by promoting airflow. Choose a performance tee as well and you’re set to go.

Do wear tank tops

If a t-shirt is too restrictive and you prefer having your arms on display, a tank top is a simple alternative that’s also geared towards performance. Choose a colour that complements the tracksuit bottoms: something neutral and subtle is usually best for a workout environment.

DO wear hoodies

There’s nothing better than a hoodie to throw on after a workout when you’re heading home and wanting to keep yourself warm and comfortable. Tracksuit bottoms are made to pair with these top garments, too, so keep one in your gym bag and chuck it on when you’re done.

DO wear tracksuit tops

A full tracksuit is a reliable and striking way to look good in casual clothes, especially if the top and bottom are from the same tracksuit set. There’s a reason these garments have been mainstays since their inception: it’s because they look good, they’re comfy, and they’re engineered to help you perform.

DO choose clothes with a similar fit

If you’re out and about in tracksuit you’ll want an outfit whose fit aligns with the trousers. Loose and casual fitting tracksuit bottoms go best with looser tops, and vice versa for those with a snugger fit.

H3 - DO wear jackets, but choose carefully

Heading outdoors means you may need something to keep you a little warmer than a t-shirt or jumper. Wearing jackets with joggers is doable, but keep in mind the loose-fitting rule from before. Leaning towards a sportier aesthetic is a good option, but other jacket styles can be made to work.

DO wear trainers

The casual feel of a tracksuit trouser aligns great with a pair of trainers, and the nature of the outfit will draw the eye downwards: a great way to show off your latest pair. That combined with the fact that trainers are an integral part of your workout attire, so wearing them with tracksuits is the most natural combination.

DON’T wear smart shoes

It’s almost impossible to combine smart shoes with joggers. While you can go a little more upmarket than trainers - think espadrilles or boat shoes - brogues and the like will be a very tall order to make look good.

What are sweatpants?

Sweatpants are trousers designed for everyday wear, with an emphasis on lounging and casual settings. While they are suitable for mild training, their materials and design are not as conducive to physical activity. 

As with tracksuit bottoms they are made from soft materials, but generally have a looser, more baggy fit. While less fashion-facing than tracksuit bottoms, it is possible to incorporate sweatpants into a stylish look.

Sweatpants also use synthetic fabrics like polyester, although they most likely won’t be breathable. This is because they aren’t designed for strenuous activity and so don’t require breathable, wicking fabrics. Choosing alternative materials keeps the price point lower than performance oriented tracksuit bottoms but it will have impacts on comfort if you decide to use them in more active settings.

How should sweatpants fit?

Sweatpants will be heavier and baggier than tracksuit bottoms, with a straight leg fit and more often than not, leg cuffs without elastic. Generally sweatpants will be slightly looser around your crotch and thighs than your calves. 

The key thing to keep in mind when wearing sweatpants is comfort, so let that be your guiding factor. If you choose a pair that are tight or otherwise uncomfortable, switch them out for a different size. You want to be moving freely in your sweatpants, whatever you use them for.

How to style sweatpants

There are a few style considerations relating to the sweatpants themselves which we’ll look at first, before moving on to a few styling tips.

  • It’s usually a good idea to go for a simple, neutral colour like light grey, navy, or black. These colours work well with all body types and don’t draw too much attention.
  • Aside from drawstrings, avoid too many visible accoutrements on the sweatpants. This is a garment designed for comfort, not to be the focal point of an outfit, so these extra adornments can be distracting.
  • Keep the leg cuffs above your shoes: resist any temptation to pull them down over the shoe itself as this will look unusual.
  • Style doesn’t matter if you’re working out: you’re there to work hard, not to look good. Still try to choose a top that looks good if that feels important to you, but don’t worry too much about the styling.

Sweatpants styling tips

In terms of what to wear - and what not to wear - with sweatpants to get the best look, here are a few recommendations.

DO wear trainers 

The casual, sporty aesthetic of a good pair of trainers will go great with your sweatpants, both in terms of comfort and style. The slight taper of sweatpant legs combined with their neutral, low-key colour is good at drawing attention to your footwear, so they provide a good opportunity to showcase your latest pair.

DO keep your footwear clean

The simplicity of a pair of sweatpants sets a certain aesthetic baseline that works best with clean shoes. A grubby, muddy pair will be dissonant against the rest of the outfit and may end up looking scruffier than usual.

DON’T wear smart shoes

Refrain from wearing dress shoes or other smart footwear with sweatpants, even if you’re going for the athleisure approach. Combining two garments from opposite ends of the smart-casual spectrum is a fashion faux pas that won’t be quickly forgiven.

DO wear shirts but be careful

Believe it or not, it is possible to combine a shirt with sweatpants but you need to be careful which one you choose. It should be smart-casual rather than fully smart, and in a subdued colour that pairs nicely with the pants. Cap this off with a pair of crisply clean white trainers and you’re good to go.

DO wear sweatshirts

Sweatpants and sweatshirts are the perfect combo: both are designed for comfort and they share the same casual ambience. While plain pants are recommended, you can go a bit more out there with the sweater, both in terms of colour and design.

DO wear t-shirts

In warmer weather or in a nice balmy indoor environment, sweatpants and a t-shirt is perhaps the ideal combo. You’ll feel comfortable and you’ll look chill: what more do you want.

DO wear bright colours on your top half

The neutrality that sweatpants provide to your bottom half are a great base on which to build bolder, more colourful outfits. Feel free to incorporate colours and patterns into your tops to liven up your look.

DO wear jewellery

In a similar vein to the above, a shiny watch or some other sparkly jewellery on your arms can create a striking combination with your sweatpants. Just go easy if you’re mixing bright garments with bold jewellery, as it’s easy to go over the top.


There you have it: a rundown of the differences between tracksuit bottoms and sweatpants, both in terms of what they’re designed to do and how you can style them.

If you’re looking to add some high-performance tracksuits to your wardrobe, check out our range here. We prioritise performance design and fabrics to keep you pushing your hardest, whatever your workout looks like.