Joggers vs Sweatpants: Which Should You Go For and When?

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by  David Martin | Last Updated: 

In my younger years, I was never a loungewear guy. 

My version of loungewear was athletic shorts and a t-shirt, which isn’t bad for the summer, but really misses out on some of life’s simple indulgences in the colder months. 

My girlfriend at the time convinced me that a good pair of sweatpants makes any stint of Netflix binging considerably better, and after experiencing this, I realized my sweats would be handy for running in the winter months as well. 

Well, I was partially right. 

Running in sweatpants will help keep you warm, but after a few miles, that initial warmth turns to suffocating humidity and the creation of a rainforest ecosystem below the waist.

In that moment, I realized why my high school wrestling friends would go for a run in a full sweatsuit with a garbage bag taped over their torso: sweatpants are great for sweating profusely.

Not keen on shedding water weight at a blistering pace, I realized there must be something better for running in the colder months. That’s when I came across joggers.

My wardrobe now has an ample amount of both sweatpants and joggers, and in this article I’ll show you the best time to wear them and a few ways to style each garment.

Joggers vs Sweatpants: Key Differences Explained

Joggers vs Sweatpants: Which Should You Go For and When?

The most prominent difference between joggers and sweatpants is the material they’re constructed from. 

There’s a lot of overlap between these two garment categories in form, but the easiest way to tell whether you’ve got your legs in a pair of sweatpants or joggers is the material: sweatpants are typically made from heavy cotton, while joggers are made from synthetic fabrics like polyesters, nylon, and spandex. 

Speaking in general terms, sweatpants have a baggier cut and can often be straight cut to the hem, or straight cut with an elastic band at the ankle. 

jogger on a hanger
American Giant Classic Sweatpant

Joggers exclusively have a slim, tapered cut down to the ankle, and most often feature a stretchy cuff rather than an elastic band. Joggers can also have elastic cuffs at the ankle, however. 

Because of the material difference used in the construction of these garments, there are different use cases for each. While both technically fall under the category of “loungewear”, joggers fit better in the athleisure category, but can also be used as loungewear.

Since sweatpants are made with heavy cotton, they’re great for sitting on the couch for endless hours, but not ideal for physical activity. 

Joggers, on the other hand, are made with lightweight, synthetic fabric blends that breathe and stretch well, making them great for lounging and physical activity alike. 

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Both have their niches in fashion as well, and aren’t just meant for the home or the gym. Sweatpants are trendy in mainstream fashion currently, and are often paired with chunky white sneakers and a big coat or sweatshirt for the “baggy” look.

Some joggers look and feel like performance menswear pants, and can be paired with white leather sneakers and a clean white t-shirt, a sweater, or a sweatshirt.

These differences can seem pretty subtle, so refer to the table below for a simpler explanation:

SWEATPANTSJOGGERS
ConstructionMade from heavy cotton, which makes them warmerMade from synthetic fabric blends, which keep them light and breathable
FitBaggy, with a straight cut or elastic hemSlim, tapered cut with stretchy cuff
PurposeGreat for lounging, too heavy for workoutsFlexible and stretchy for workouts and running, but also great for lounging
StylingCan be paired with chunky sneakers and a sweatshirtCan be used in smart casual outfits

When to Wear Joggers Over Sweatpants

It’s best to wear joggers over sweatpants for most physical activity.

Since joggers are made with lightweight, breathable fabrics, they’ll be much more comfortable and flexible for dynamic movement than heavy cotton. 

If I was going on a run, to the gym, to play tennis, for a quick bike ride, or a host of other physical activities, I’d prefer joggers over sweatpants nine times out of ten. 

model with jacket and grey joggers
Public Rec All Day Every Day Jogger

The one notable exception to this is if you’re intentionally trying to sweat buckets. Sweatpants and sweatshirts are named for a reason: they don’t breathe and they make you sweat.

So, if there’s some physical activity where you want to sweat more than a walrus at hot yoga, opt for the sweats over the joggers.

Joggers are also finding more use cases in casual outing environments. Performance menswear has had a serious leap in popularity, and because of this there are lots of joggers that look almost identical to performance slacks. 

Take Public Rec’s All Day Every Day Jogger, for example. These look almost exactly like a pair of performance slacks—the only difference is that they taper down to the stretchy cuff at the ankle. 

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You could wear these for a casual drink at the bar with friends, to the next big game, or for running errands. Joggers are also great for long days of travel. Being so comfortable and lightweight, they’re perfect for hours on a plane and the zippered pockets help keep your valuables secure.

When to Wear Sweatpants Over Joggers

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Sweatpants are still the king of loungewear, so I recommend wearing sweats for any rainy days spent indoors, binge-watching Netflix, or just hanging around the house. 

Since they’re made with heavy cotton, they’re great for keeping you warm in the colder months, especially when paired with a sweatshirt on top. 

I’d also wear sweatpants over joggers if I’m intentionally trying to make myself sweat, like I mentioned above.

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If you’re keeping up with fashion trends, you’ve probably seen the sweatsuits with chunky white sneakers and an oversized coat over top. This trendy fashion is very much still alive and is a great excuse to wear sweatpants out in public when it wouldn’t otherwise be appropriate. 

That’s right, if you’ve ever wanted to run all your errands in the comfort of your sweatpants, now is one of the few times in history that you can do this and be considered fashionable. Enjoy it while it lasts!

What Are Joggers?

model with jogger and jacket multiple sides

To give a simple definition, joggers are tapered sports pants made from synthetic fabric blends like polyester, nylon, and spandex. 

Joggers have a slim, tapered cut through the leg that gives them a sleek appearance and feel, and they often have zippered pockets for a more technical, secure wearing experience. 

Public Rec’s All Day Every Day Jogger is a great example of this. These joggers have front and back zippered pockets and are made from a nylon and spandex blend that keeps my movement free and easy. 

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Joggers are also made with cotton in some cases, but never 100% cotton. Public Rec has a pair of midweight joggers, the Weekend Jogger, that is made with a blend of cotton, polyester, and spandex. 

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Public Rec Weekend Jogger
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One of our favorite midweight joggers---they bring the comfort and stretch of Public Rec's flagship nylon and spandex All Day Every Day Joggers but with uber-comfortable 83% Pima cotton for max Sunday lounging cred.

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These end up being a warmer and heavier pair of joggers than the All Day Every Day Jogger, but the polyester and spandex fabric blend keeps them stretchy and breathable.

Since these pants taper down to a straight, clean cuff at the hem, they’re still considered joggers rather than sweatpants. 

How to Style Joggers

Since joggers are often structured enough to not look baggy and unkempt, you actually have a lot of styling options. 

Joggers vs Sweatpants: Which Should You Go For and When?

Besides the typical gym outfit of running or weightlifting shoes with joggers and a sports tee, joggers pair very nicely with white sneakers, a white or grey t-shirt, and a denim jacket. This is a great outfit for a Saturday bar crawl with friends, or watching the game at a friend’s house.

I also like to style joggers with black leather sneakers, a hoodie, and a quilted bomber for a casual but refined look. 

Joggers vs Sweatpants: Which Should You Go For and When?

The best part about an outfit like this is that you can wear it to run some errands, and then go straight to the gym, change your shoes and take off your coat, and you’re ready to go. 

I’m a big fan of Public Rec’s Stadium Jogger for this kind of thing, which taper down to a small, elastic cuff. These are structured enough to look almost identical to the cotton and chino joggers that are popular these days, but they’re a whole lot more comfortable.

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Public Rec Stadium Jogger
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The Public Rec Stadium Joggers are lighter and more breathable than the brand's All Day Every Day Jogger. This makes it a go-to in the warmer months and for any gym sessions you have planned.

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These are made from a blend of nylon and spandex, and would also be perfect for a long flight or day of travel. 

I’d pair these with white leather sneakers like the KOIO Capri Triple Whites and a white t-shirt to stay comfortable on the plane, no matter how long the flight is.

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Key Things to Consider When Buying Joggers

When it comes to buying joggers, the most important thing to consider is the fit. Most sweatpants will come in generic sizes like small, medium, and large, but a good pair of joggers will be sized like a normal pair of pants. 

model with black hoodie and black joggers

All of Public Rec’s joggers can be sized by your waist and inseam, which helps to ensure that you get a comfortable fit. 

I’ve had joggers before that were a generic size, and while they were technically long enough, the waist was high and tight to the extent that I felt like Kylo Ren when I had my shirt off. 

While this might look cool, it certainly wasn’t comfortable. 

While considering the fit, keep in mind that joggers are typically slim cut. If you’re a bigger guy or really prefer straight cut, looser pants, joggers might not be the best choice. 

It’s also important to consider the materials used to make the joggers. If you want a super breathable, light pair of joggers, don’t get a pair that has a cotton and polyester blend. 

model with white tshirt and green joggers

While these will still be comfortable, breathable joggers, they won’t be anything compared to the flexibility and ease of movement you get from a nylon and spandex blend.

What Are Sweatpants?

Sweatpants are heavy, cotton jersey pants that are typically straight cut to the hem or straight cut with an elastic cuff. 

These are what people used to work out in before joggers were invented, and since then they’ve primarily been used as loungewear.

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Sweatpants are almost always baggy and loose, which is super comfortable for lounging around the house, but usually makes them too casual for going out in public. 

Some sweatpants have a slim cut and a straight cuff at the ankle that makes them look like joggers, but if they’re made with 100% cotton fabric they’re still sweatpants. These will be heavy and won’t breathe well, but will be considerably warmer than joggers.

How to Style Sweatpants

There are several ways to style sweatpants, mostly thanks to current fashion trends. I’d usually keep sweatpants for days when I don’t plan to leave the house, but these days they’re much more acceptable for going out and running errands, or even going to the bar.

First, if you’re looking to get out around town with sweatpants, make sure you have a pair with an elastic cuff. Keep those straight cut sweatpants for the house only.

model with black hoodie and black joggers standing

If I’m running some errands and want to be comfortable but also efficient, I’ll pair my sweats with a hoodie or zip up hoodie, a white t-shirt, and some classic sneakers like Converse All Stars

I can make this outfit noticeably more trendy by swapping the sneakers for some chunky leather boots, like my Doc Martens, which gives a slightly more aggressive look to this outfit. 

Sweatpants are also a solid choice for long days of travel, and can be paired with white sneakers, white socks, a hoodie, and a light coat like Tim Dessaint does below:

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Key Things to Consider When Buying Sweatpants

The main thing to consider when buying sweatpants is what you’re planning to do with them. 

Planning to make these part of your official, after-work uniform for lounging around the house? Get some heavy, baggy, straight cut sweatpants.

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If, instead, you’d like to take advantage of the fashion trends and wear your sweats to the airport, the bar, or when walking your dog, opt for a pair of sweats with an elastic cuff and a slimmer cut through the leg. 

Sweatpants don’t usually come with sizing considerations like waist and inseam measurements, so make sure you pay attention to the website’s sizing guide if the sizes are generic, or try the sweats on if you’re in-store.

What About Track Pants?

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Track pants also have a place in this conversation, since they’re often confused with sweatpants and joggers.

While there is some overlap between track pants and these other two garments, the main difference is that track pants are almost always untapered and uncuffed, and are usually made with polyester fabric blends. 

So, sometimes the material of track pants and joggers can be identical, but the only difference is that track pants have a straight leg rather than a tapered, cuffed hem like joggers. 

When I think of track pants, I think of the Adidas track suits you see in movies that have somehow become the official uniform of European drug dealers. These are typically made with a thick, polyester fabric that’s much heavier than the nylon and spandex blends found in most joggers.

Lounge Appropriately

model on couch and computer with meundies loungewear

The differences between sweatpants, joggers, and track pants can seem nuanced and confusing, but as long as you pay attention to what the fabric is made of you should be able to choose the garment that’s best for you.

Those looking for workout pants that are breathable, technical, lightweight, and slim cut will want to pick up a good pair of joggers, like the All Day Every Day Joggers from Public Rec.

If you’re looking for something a little heavier, but still slim cut and breathable, Public Rec’s Weekend Jogger is made with a blend of cotton, polyester, and spandex fabric that will keep you warm and well-ventilated.

Black Friday Discount
Public Rec Weekend Jogger
(Get 20% off sitewide with Public Rec's biggest sale of the year)

One of our favorite midweight joggers---they bring the comfort and stretch of Public Rec's flagship nylon and spandex All Day Every Day Joggers but with uber-comfortable 83% Pima cotton for max Sunday lounging cred.

Check Best Price
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Want a comfy pair of pants to keep you cozy while you binge old seasons of The Office? Pick up a pair of heavy, cotton sweatpants. 

If you know a guy who’s still sweating through his sweatpants during his runs, share this article with him! He’ll thank you when you’re both wearing joggers at the bar.

FAQs

Are joggers supposed to be loose or tight?

Joggers are typically slim cut and tapered down to the ankle, which makes them tight and close to the leg.

Are joggers and track pants the same?

Joggers and track pants are sometimes made from the same material, but joggers are tapered and slim cut, while track pants are straight cut and made with heavy polyester.

Are joggers warmer than sweatpants?

Joggers aren’t usually warmer than sweatpants. Sweatpants are made with heavy cotton, which is warm and insulating, while joggers are made with polyester, nylon, and spandex, which is light and breathable.

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