The Best Extra-Firm Mattresses Of 2023 For Back & Side Sleepers
While every sleep setup should share a few key similarities to maximize sleep quality—such as minimal light and noise pollution—other factors are personal. One preference that's likely to vary from person to person? Mattress firmness.
A few factors can affect the right mattress firmness for you, including your sleep position, body weight, and any issues with chronic pain. Beyond that, the best mattress firmness really comes down to personal preference. So while the thought of snoozing on an extra firm mattress may not be for all, it's a fairly popular pick for those who sleep on their stomach or need more support.
Who should sleep on an extra-firm mattress?
Side sleepers beware—an extra-firm mattress is not for you. Chiropractor Kevin Lees, D.C., of The Joint Corp previously told mbg that "a mattress that is too firm may cause shoulder and hip pain, as well as change the spinal alignment."
That's because side sleepers put pressure on their shoulders and hips, which needs to be counteracted by the mattress. An extra-firm mattress won't provide this responsiveness, making them a hard sell. However, stomach and back sleepers can find an oasis in this solid construction.
The firm base keeps your spine in a neutral alignment when lying on your stomach or back, preventing your risk of aches and pains. The extra-sturdy construction is also ideal for those who weigh more than 230 pounds, which is often the max weight considered for many designs.
Of course, you're the best judge of how firm you want your mattress to be. Take advantage of trial periods, flippable mattresses, and free returns to find the right firmness level for you.
What to look for in an extra-firm mattress:
- Price: It's possible to find an extra-firm mattress on a budget under $300, but there are plenty of splurge-worthy options available, too.
- Warranties: Your mattress is an investment, so it's important to find a design that's constructed to last. A warranty is a great way to suss out what's built for the long haul.
- Sleeping position: Stomach and back sleepers will love the support offered by an extra-firm mattress, which helps maintain proper alignment by reducing the sinking common in softer constructions.
- Weight limit: An extra-firm mattress can be a great option for people who weigh more than 230 pounds, but it's important to look at the weight limit to ensure the construction offers enough support.
How do brands measure firmness?
Brands typically rate mattress firmness on a scale of 1 to 10. A lower number indicates softer cushioning, while higher numbers point to an extra-firm design. While nearly all mattresses feature a comfort layer made with cushioning or responsive foam, soft mattresses tend to have thicker comfort layers versus the thinner layer on firm designs.
Although many brands use the same 10-point scale, there is no universal metric for firmness. As a result, it's important to read into the construction of every mattress to better understand how it may fit your preferences.
How we picked:
Unfortunately "firmness" varies by brand, so the label extra-firm isn't always enough to ensure the mattress has zero give. To get as close as possible, we only selected mattresses at the top 20% of the firmness scale for each company.
We focused mainly on mattresses made of GOLS-certified organic latex and GOTS-certified organic cotton. However, when that wasn’t possible we looked into manufacturing processes to make sure the mattresses were environmentally conscious.
We called all mattresses into our testing studio to determine whether they provide pressure relief, motion isolation, and edge support. Our findings were included as star ratings for each pick.
You may notice a few less firm options in our guide; these accommodate side sleepers who need a firmer option but can't commit to the rock-solid feel of an extra firm pick.
Our picks for the best extra-firm mattresses of 2023:
Firmest design:: Plank by Brooklyn Bedding
- Optional cooling cover
- Flippable design for customized firmness
- Doesn't have great edge support
How It's Made: Plank's name should tip you off to everything you want to know about this flat design. The flippable mattress gives just two options to sleepers: firm and ultra-firm. According to the brand, achieving anything more firm than the "ultra-firm" side would require you to sleep "directly on the floor."
What that really means? Each side of the memory foam mattress has a different type of cushioning. One side has less than an inch of pillow cushioning, while the other provides twice the cushioning and a 2-inch foam comfort level.
How It Arrives: Unlike an actual plank, this foam mattress rolls into a slim spiral and ships in a box. The all-foam design weighs less than 105 pounds, so it can easily be moved around the home. Just know a few buyers did complain of a strong off-gassing smell.
If you're looking for a full review, check out our full written and video review of the Plank mattress.
Best latex: Avocado Latex Mattress by Avocado
- Sustainable materials
- Heavy-duty handles for easy movement
- Needle tufted by hand
- Shipping fee to Alaska & Hawaii
- Weighs at least 95 pounds (and up to 185)
How It's Made: The most eco-friendly mattress in the line-up, this sleek pick is entirely biodegradable. The 9-inch mattress is primarily composed of GOLS-certified organic Dunlop latex, which is harvested from Avocado's personal farms.
Each dense layer of latex is cut into a patented zigzag wave pattern. While this sounds unconventional, it actually creates three pressure-relieving zones throughout the mattress with different levels of responsiveness. The end result is the optimal spine-aligning design that's endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association.
How It Arrives: Your new latex mattress arrives in a box, which should be moved to your ideal location before opening. If you get too excited and unbox in the wrong location, the mattress has handles for easy repositioning (a must considering the hefty weight). Plus, the focus on natural materials without flame retardants or chemicals means there's no off-gassing smell—though our testers found the natural materials did have a distinct scent.
Best hybrid: Saatva Latex Hybrid Mattress
- Free in-room delivery & setup
- Good motion isolation
- Charges a fee to return
- Body may imprint quickly
How It's Made: If you want the firmness of memory foam but aren't ready to give up on an innerspring design, this hybrid model from Saatva is the ideal pick. It pairs individual pocked recycled steel coils with sustainably sourced Talalay latex for a firmer hybrid option. While it won't be as firm as all latex options–a great thing for side sleepers—it still offers five ergonomic zones to prevent dipping and maintain spinal alignment. The breathability and edge support are almost just a bonus.
How It Arrives: White glove service is the name of the game for Saatva, which delivers and sets up its luxury mattresses free of charge. Another perk? No funky smells, as the mattress is GREENGUARD Gold and eco-INSTITUT® certified to be free of pollutants & emissions.
Before committing to the Saatva Latex Hybrid, check out how it performed in our full testing process.
Best with same-day shipping: Sleep On Latex Pure Green Organic Latex Mattress
- No assembly required
- Quilted, sewn & packaged in brand factory
- Free returns
- Not recommended for use with box springs
- Shorter warranty than other brands
How It's Made: Stay sustainable without spending a fortune; this all-natural pick is made with entirely organic materials. The 8-inch latex mattress is broken into two layers—a sturdy base and less dense comfort layer—to offer the optimal amount of pressure relief.
Despite this sturdy construction, you won't need to worry about the mattress overheating thanks to the layer of temperature-regulating wool batting surrounding the exterior. Bonus: Free returns means you can swap between the two firmness levels to guarantee that you've made the right pick.
How It Arrives: Each hand-sewn mattress is compressed and shipped to your door in recycled packaging, with orders shipped out the same day Monday through Friday.
What Customers Say: Customers loved not dealing with the smell of chemical off-gassing and couldn't stop commenting on the firm support. The customer service also earned shout-outs from satisfied shoppers.
What we skipped.
Prior to testing for this buying guide, our team previously included the Zinus Pressure Relief Extra Firm iCoil® Hybrid Mattress. Upon further examination, we felt this budget-friendly pick didn't offer the same quality of materials provided by the other options in the guide. The brand also underwent scrutiny last year for including fiberglass in its mattress, which is used to as a natural flame retardant to prevent the use of chemicals. However, regular wear-and-tear of a mattress can allow these small fragments to escape the covers used in many mattress—leading to negative health consequences.
What we updated:
2/23: After completing a series of experiments on our mattresses in our testing studios, we updated this guide to reflect our findings pertaining to motion isolation, pressure relief, responsiveness, and edge support. Hands-on access to these mattresses allowed our testers to determine how firm each mattress truly felt, so we could find the "firmest" option on the market. During these tests, we discovered the Saatva Latex Hybrid was softer than anticipated based on the brand's firmness rating. However, our testers who sleep on their side felt this was one of the firmest options they could sleep on without causing shoulder or hip pain.
What is the hardest mattress you can buy?
Generally, any mattress made with foam and latex with a thinner pillow-top will provided the firmest sleeping base. Of all the mattresses on our list, Plank by Brooklyn Bedding is one of the firmest options you'll find (and it's flippable in case it's a little too firm).
Can a mattress be too firm?
Per our expert, a mattress that's too firm could cause shoulder and/or hip pain, as the firm surface may mess with proper spinal alignment. Luckily, every mattress on our list offers a trial period, ensuring you can return any selections that ends up disrupting your snooze by causing aches or pains.
Is it better to sleep on a hard or soft mattress?
Ultimately, the best surface your snooze comes down to a few different factors, including sleep position, body weight, and personal preferences. We recommend sticking with brand offering generous sleep trial to help you narrow down your personal preference.
Is a firm mattress better for your back?
Typically, firm mattresses are best for those who sleep on their backs—but plenty of other factors can impact whether a mattress is right for you. Studies suggest a medium-firm mattress is best for those who struggle with back pain.
What is the best firm mattress?
The best firm mattress depends on what you're looking for in a mattress. If you want the firmest option on the market, look no further than Plank by Brooklyn Bedding. Those wanting an affordable, eco-friendly design should consider Sleep On Latex.
The firmness of your mattress typically comes down to preference—and from there it's easy to find the right design for you. Whether you want a hybrid mattress or simply prefer an option made with sustainable materials, we've got the best extra-firm mattresses for every sleeper. And once you've treated yourself to a better mattress, put the cherry on top with these cooling sheets for perfect night's sleep!