How can you tell if a mattress is supportive?


Firm support is vital to healthy sleep. Proper support helps ensure you’re not waking up each morning with aches and pains. But how can you tell if a mattress is supportive?

When it comes to comfort, you can often tell immediately whether a mattress is too firm or too soft for you. But it’s a little more difficult to judge support. That’s because support comes from the core of the mattress. If you’re only testing a mattress for a few minutes, you may not be allowing your body enough time to really settle into the mattress and sense the support system.

Remember: because support comes from the core, a mattress could be very firm or very soft and still offer high-quality support. Learn more here.

There are two ways to tell whether or not a mattress is supportive. First, you’ll want to learn as much as you can about the support materials used. Second, you’ll want to test out the mattress for as long as possible.


Mattress cores: Springs, foam, air, or water

A mattress’ support comes from its core. That core can be made with innersprings, foam, air, or water. Let’s take a look at each of these materials:

Innerspring: Innerspring mattresses are very common, but not all innersprings are created equal. There are a number of different types of springs available, and their quality can vary widely. There are a few factors you’ll want to consider when evaluating an innerspring:

  • Coil count: The number of coils in a mattress may be an indicator of support, but the number of turns, coil design and gauge of wire all play a part.
  • Gauge: Gauge is the thickness of the wire in the coil. The lower the number, the thicker the wire is (and the more supportive the coil will be).
  • Number of turns or rotations: The more turns a coil has, the more durable it will be.
  • Coil design: There are six main coil designs available:
    • Bonnell: An hourglass-shaped coil with a round, knotted head. It is made with tempered steel and at one time was commonly used in most mainstream brands’ entry level products as well as some promotional products, but it has been largely replaced by the Veritcoil® because it features less wire and is therefore less expensive. The Bonnell coil unit is used in our Classic line.
    • LFK coil: A straight-barrel coil with an offset, squared, and un-knotted head. It is made with tempered steel and is used in premium innerspring mattresses. The LFK coil unit is used in our Regency line.
    • Offset coil: An hourglass-shaped coil with a square head that is typically knotted and made of tempered steel. Offset coils used to be used in many premium-quality innerspring units found in high-end luxury brands, but many mainstream brands have moved to lower-cost and lower-quality alternatives. The square-head design works with neighboring coils to hinge, offering excellent body-conformance characteristics. Our best offset knotted coil unit is used in our Orthopedic line.
    • Marshall or pocketed coil: A straight-barrel, un-knotted coil that is encased in fabric. It is sometimes made with non-tempered steel, which reduces the long-term resiliency of the springs. This is also known as a pocketed coil and is very common in mainstream mattress brands’ flagship lines. While this style is extremely common in mainstream mattress brands, you won’t find it at OMF. Learn why here.
    • Continuous coil: A strip of coils that runs either vertically or horizontally with each head representing the end and beginning of consecutive coils. This design is made of one piece of tempered wire and commonly has a high coil count, but it uses less steel and a much thinner gauge of wire with a low number of turns.
    • Verticoil®: A fairly new design featuring a straight coil with an open-ended, offset coil head design. It incorporates some of the attributes of an LFK coil design but in a size more similar to that of a Bonnell coil. The VertiCoil® unit typically utilizes less wire than other offerings and is now commonly used in most mainstream brand entry-level products.

Foam: All-foam mattresses will have a foam core, typically made of polyurethane foam (although latex foam is used occasionally). When it comes to evaluating a foam core, you’ll want to focus on density and indentation load deflection (ILD). ILD is a measurement of a foam’s load-bearing capacity and is indicative of how hard or soft the foam feels.

When evaluating a mattress with a polyurethane foam core, we recommend looking for a core with a minimum density of 2 lb/ft3.

With a latex foam core mattress, we would recommend looking for a core with a minimum density of 3.5 lb/ft3. When density information isn’t available, we recommend a minimum ILD of 32.

Air or water: Water beds used to be popular in decades past, but they’re pretty rare these days. Air is still commonly used in mattress cores. Air and water support your body through displacement. This can create a hammock-like effect when the air or water levels are lowered to soften the mattress. After significant research on air and water products, The Original Mattress Factory determined neither offers the type of support that we think is best for our customers and therefore do not offer either air or water in our line.


Test it out

Everyone’s comfort and support preferences are different. So the best way to find the right fit for you is to test out mattresses in person for as long as possible. Once you’ve narrowed down your options, spend at least 15 minutes in your natural sleeping position testing out a mattress before making your final selection. This will give your body time to settle in and sense the support system.

Pay attention to how your hips and shoulders feel; the mattress should feel firm in those area but not painful. Make sure you’re not getting a hammock-like feeling.

Ready to start your mattress buying journey? Come to The Original Mattress Factory first. No one knows more than our team about what makes a great mattress great. Whether you buy from us or not, you’ll be better prepared to make a smart mattress buying decision. Find a store near you.