We Tested the Best Firm Pillows at Every Price Point, From $10 to Nearly $200
So you don’t have to lose sleep over making the right choice.
Updated Apr 18, 2022 4:08 PM
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Reading up on Domino’s shopping guides is like having your own personal product concierge. We do the tedious part—deep-dive research, hands-on testing, and tapping experts for advice—so all you have to do is hit “add to cart.” That’s why we call them Simply the Best.
Want to wake up feeling refreshed, renewed, and ready to take on the day? Where you rest your head is the secret to a good night’s sleep, and the best firm pillows can offer the perfect amount of support for a satisfying slumber.
But pillows don’t last forever, and if yours isn’t quite holding its shape like it used to or is starting to feel more like a flat, fabric-covered slab than a comfy cushion, you’re likely well overdue for a new one. We took it upon ourselves to test a bunch of options on the market, ranging from medium to firm, at a variety of price points, and landed on our seven favorites, below, so you don’t have to lose any sleep over the shopping process.
- For $10: Made by Design Medium-Density Foam Pillow
- For $30: Amazon Basics Down-Alternative Pillow
- For $50: Allswell Reversible Pillow
- For $65: Brooklinen Marlow Pillow
- For $110: Hullo Buckwheat Pillow
- For $149: Four Seasons Down and Feather Pillow
- For $198: Boll & Branch Down Pillow
For $10: Made by Design Medium-Density Foam Pillow
Fill material: Polyester | Firmness: Medium | Best for: Stomach and back sleepers
What we like:
- Lightweight (no more than a pound)
- Sold in a king and standard size for less than $15
- 200-thread count
- Cotton and polyester exterior cover
Why we chose it: Not too soft, not too firm, and at a “just right” price point.
Target’s down-alternative pillow provides a balanced amount of give; it’s a bit more malleable than others but still squishy. And while it’s filled with a medium-density polyester, we found it to be the perfect middle ground: Not too rigid, not too fluffy, this ultra-affordable buy is perfect for Goldilocks sleepers who can never decide whether they prefer a firm or soft place to rest their heads. Though our favorite part? It’s also offered at the most budget-friendly price point on this list—you don’t have to spend more than $10 to bring home one of the best pillows.
For $30: Amazon Basics Down-Alternative Firm Pillow
Fill material: Polyester | Firmness: Firm | Best for: Back and side sleepers
What we like:
- 100 percent cotton shell
- 9 inches thick (nearly impossible to fold in half)
- Machine washable
- Solid, not loose, fill
Why we chose it: A supportive, springy staple you’ll never sink into.
Amazon’s basic down-alternative pillow has a crisp white cotton cover and a polyester fill that springs back when you press it. It’s sturdy but not too dense that it would feel uncomfortable, and could have easily been labeled as extra-firm. This cushion is a good budget option for those who like to sleep with their heads propped up a bit, as it doesn’t allow for a ton of give, if at all, which is great for cradling a sleeper’s neck and offering relief for tension in your upper back.
For $50: Allswell Reversible Pillow
Fill material: Memory foam | Firmness: Medium and firm | Best for: Hot sleepers
What we like:
- Quilted look
- Cool to the touch
- Removable cover is antimicrobial and machine washable
- Only one standard size available (24-by-16 inches)
Why we chose it: Cozy and cool.
While this pillow claims to offer a cloudlike, plushy side filled with down-alternative fibers in addition to its firmer memory foam parallel, we found it to be rather resilient all around and relatively flat in appearance. Your head won’t sink too far into this foamy option, conforming and cradling your head and neck, all while regulating your temperature thanks to a mesh cover that’s constantly encouraging airflow. So if you prefer not to prop your head up too high, this less-than-puffy pick might be for you.
For $65: Brooklinen Marlow Pillow
Fill material: Polyurethane memory foam and polyester | Firmness: Medium to firm (customizable) | Best for: Hot, back, and stomach sleepers
What we like:
- 365-day, risk-free trial period
- Cooling-infused foam
- Sateen cotton shell
- 1 percent of sales is donated to partner charities, such as the Sadie Nash Leadership Project
- Can feel lumpy
- Spot-clean only
Why we chose it: Chill out on an adjustable pillow.
New from Brooklinen, Marlow’s chopped foam-and-polyester combo is sturdy with a moderate amount of give—but adjustable. The zipper that runs along its exterior offers three unique settings: When fully closed, this pillow lays flat for an extra-firm feel, but unzipped, it skews to the medium side of things for a fluffier middle ground. It keeps its shape through the night without requiring any extra prodding and slips into most pillowcases without much of a struggle.
For $110: Hullo Buckwheat Pillow
Fill material: Buckwheat hulls | Firmness: Extra-firm | Best for: Back, stomach, and side sleepers
What we like:
- Made in the U.S.
- Certified organic twill shell
- Modifiable height to keep your spine in alignment
- Heavy (8.5 pounds!)
Why we chose it: For when all else fails, try buckwheat.
Buckwheat in a pillow? You bet. The hulls, which are grown and milled in the U.S., are actually magically malleable, naturally nailing the trifecta of the best pillows: cool, comfy, and supportive. This is a pillow that promises not to flatten out or compress over time, as the hulls can be redistributed and adjusted (you can even add more based on your preference). Though if you do tend to move around a bit in your sleep, this pillow isn’t exactly silent, as you can faintly hear the hulls shifting about inside like a sand-filled hourglass. You might encounter a bit of a shock factor the first night, but making it through the adjustment period is worth it.
For $149: Four Seasons Down and Feather Pillow
Fill material: White down and feathers | Firmness: Medium | Best for: Side sleepers
What we like:
- Standard, king, and Euro size options
- Double-stitched and piped edge
- 240-thread count
- More like a medium-soft feel
Why we chose it: Luxurious, five-store-hotel kind of comfort.
This down-and-feather–filled option from the Four Seasons has an immediate appeal: After you press down on it, it inflates again ever so slowly. It’s also not overfilled, which means you can fluff it up to your heart’s content. In the end, we found it to be surprisingly supportive, despite the fact that its feathers let your head sink in lower than all the other firm pillows we tried. All in all, it’s pretty much the next best thing to sleeping on a cloud, without letting your neck fall out of alignment.
For $198: Boll & Branch Down Pillow
Fill material: White down and feathers | Firmness: Firm | Best for: Side sleepers
What we like:
- Also soft and medium options
- Triple-washed down sourced from U.S. farms
- 30-night risk-free trial
- Pillow protector sold separately
Why we chose it: Replace the support of two pillows with just this one (making it more worth the serious splurge).
We turn to Boll & Branch for most bedding-related buys, and this medium-firm down pillow is no exception. It’s easily the marshmallow-iest option we tested; it’s thoroughly filled, so it keeps its extra puffy shape, but offers enough give to still feel supportive. Final call: This is the best option for those who require a truly thick, firm pillow—if you typically sleep with two cushions, it’s a good single alternative (especially if you can’t travel without bringing your personal pillow along).
How We Chose These Products
What’s the best pillow? This is tricky to answer, as pillows are the ultimate personal purchase. While one person may be totally content with a flat, barely there feel, someone else may prefer a heaping pile of down pillows. Choosing the right one is a daunting task, and there’s really no shortcut to finding your perfect match—which is why sleep trials are our favorites—so we tried a range of options all under the firm category and at a variety of price points. At Domino, we strive to prioritize brands with eco-conscious attributes, but when it comes to affordability and durability, it can be difficult to avoid synthetic fibers, which is why a few polyester-filled pillows can be found on this list. Still, that’s why we make sure to conduct hands-on testing when possible, tap industry experts for their input, dig into brand stats, and conduct independent research to help you find the very best bedding setup, whether it’s pillows, sheets, or mattresses.
Our Shopping Checklist
Where you naturally find yourself flipping over to get comfortable can have a huge impact on how firm your pillow should actually be. This list focuses on pillows defined as medium to extra-firm—firm pillows are often more dense and heavier compared to their softer counterparts, and designed to keep your body neutrally aligned through the night. This means there isn’t much give to a firm pillow, and it maintains its shape under the weight of your head, springing back to its original bounciness by morning once you wake.
Part of a pillow’s firmness comes from its filling. While it’s easy to assume down pillows are incredibly soft and squishy, this isn’t always the case—what’s important to note is the amount of fill. A fully filled down pillow (in other words, a pillow with feathers and animal-derived fluff inside) or down alternative (fibers that mimic feathers) will still offer a resilient, springy feel that resists sinkage. That’s why foam is the more popular fill choice for firm pillows, as it’s renowned for retaining its shape. Down alternatives are typically made from manmade fabrics like polyester, but there are some curveballs out there, too, like buckwheat, which are extra firm (think of these hulls like a natural micro-bead).
Firm pillows also often have a higher loft compared to medium or soft pillows—essentially a pillow’s height—due to the greater amounts of fill and rigid nature. Expect firm pillows to be about 3 to 5 inches thick, which is typical of the average loft, or even taller, to really feel propped up. “Individuals who are primarily side sleepers usually need more height due to the distance between the shoulders and the neck, while back sleepers may not need that much height since they are closer to the mattress,” Dr. Robert Koser, D.C., once explained to Domino.
Q: Does my preferred sleep position matter as to whether or not I need a firm pillow?
The clinical director of Active Therapy Center in Santa Monica, California, Dr. Paul Capulong, D.C., previously told us that firm pillows are great for all types of sleepers; the discomfort likely lies in where you’re resting your head. “A common mistake people make is that they tend to sleep on the edge of the pillow rather than placing the pillow at the base of the neck,” Capulong points out.
And Koser agrees that a neutral neck position is key: “If you notice your head is flexed or dipped down too much, it is time to invest in a different pillow.”
The Last Word
The best firm pillow doesn’t have to cost a fortune; we found perfectly comfortable picks for $50 or less, though the more quality, eco-conscious materials and full fills increase the cost (our top splurge pick is nearly $200). But can you really put a price tag on refreshing rest?