The first order of business when buying a mattress is narrowing down your search by type: foam or spring. Mattresses fall into one of these two categories (though there are offshoots which include hybrid and latex mattresses), and there are some key distinctions when analyzing a foam vs spring mattress.
Comfort will drive your decision because the whole point of buying a new mattress is to be able to rest in peace. After all, the average person spends roughly a third of their life sleeping, and you want to get the best quality sleep possible.
When it comes to the debate of spring vs. foam, it’s a debate of old vs. new. To help you figure out which option is the best for you, Bed Tester has put together this comprehensive guide to foam vs. spring mattresses. Let’s jump right in.
Foam vs. Spring Mattress: What’s the Difference?
You probably already have an idea of what separates these two mattress types. As their name implies, the materials used are the principal difference between them. We’ll outline these differences below, as well as the main features of each mattress type and some pros and cons.
When you think of foam mattresses, the image of someone sinking their hand into the material, which then takes several seconds to return to its original form, probably comes to mind.
This image is made possible due to the construction of foam mattresses, which are typically made with some combination of three types of foam: memory foam, foam latex, and polyfoam. Some hybrid mattresses use a combination of spring coils and memory foam, but we won’t discuss those in this guide.
The poly foam used in these mattresses is often a combination of three different types (regular grade, high density, and high resiliency) that provide maximum support and comfort. Memory foam is what contours to your body, giving us that image of foam that takes several seconds to bounce back, and foam latex provides more bouncy support.
What happens when you use these materials in a mattress? You get a product that is generally highly durable, and that will have a long lifespan.
While foam mattresses have only been around for a handful of years, spring mattresses have stood the test of time. They’ve been around since the 1800s and are considered the original bed.
Their design is indeed traditional. Everyone can conjure up an image of the inside of a spring mattress--a metal coil system contained within the inside of the mattress’ fabric. It’s a system that directly provides support. It responds to the force your body exerts on the mattress by pushing back with similar strength.
There’s not a lot that would be considered revolutionary about the spring mattress, but it does the job. It has been the standard for many years and shows no signs of slowing down, even though memory foam has made a splash in the mattress industry. Its continued relative popularity is due in large part to the fact that people like the traditional, bouncy feel.
Spring vs. Foam Mattress: How to Choose the Best Mattress for You
Now that you know how they’re made, it’s time to talk about how to choose the best mattress for you. After reading about their construction, you may think you’ve got your mind entirely made up, but there are some other considerations to keep in mind before making a final decision.
The first thing you’ll need to think about when choosing a mattress is your budget. Your budget will determine what kind of bed you can buy, so it’s essential to have a number in mind when shopping. Keep in mind that a mid-range foam or spring mattress will cost you somewhere between $600-$1,200. Many brands offer financing packages.
And remember, expensive doesn’t always mean you’re getting the best mattress for you. No matter how much you spent, if the mattress doesn’t align with your needs, you won’t get the sleep you want.
The next item of business is deciding on mattress firmness. The firmness level will ultimately come down to personal choice, but you want something that will provide the proper support as well as comfort.
Firmness is measured on a scale of 1-10, with one being the softest and 10 being the firmest. Most people prefer a firmness number somewhere between 5 and 7, and you’ll see that a lot of mattresses on the market fall in that range. If you’re not sure what you like, visit a mattress store and try out various types.
Mattress quality is another one of those areas that will determine your overall satisfaction with your bed. Whether you decide on foam or spring, check to ensure that whatever you purchase will stand up to the test of time (at least seven or eight years). Read reviews, compare features, and spend time researching to get an idea of the product’s quality.
Do you sleep on your side? Or are you a stomach sleeper? Maybe you’re a combination sleeper that switches positions throughout the night. However you sleep, knowing your sleep style is essential when deciding between a foam and a spring mattress.
Why? Because each mattress type caters differently to the different sleep styles, and within each mattress category, different brands will address sleep styles in distinct ways. It’s generally easy to find information about whether a particular mattress is right for your sleep style.
Side sleepers want to avoid too much pressure on their hips and shoulders, so they should look for a softer mattress--maybe foam. Back and stomach sleepers, on the other hand, can go a bit firmer for greater spine support--perhaps a spring mattress would be best here.
If you sleep with a partner, especially a partner who moves a lot, you need to think about motion isolation. Motion isolation refers to how much movement is contained in the part of the bed it occurs. Ideally, you want to feel your partner moving as little as possible, and many newer mattress models, especially foam beds, feature excellent motion isolation.
Lastly, body weight is another thing to keep in mind, and this is where we can see some clear differences between memory foam and spring mattresses.
Your body weight determines how much you sink into a mattress and how much pressure you put on it. Memory foam tends to be better for lighter individuals (less than 230-250 pounds), who sink in less, and spring is often more suited to heavier people.
Memory Foam vs. Spring Mattress: Which is Better to Buy Online?
As you can see, there are many differences when it comes to memory foam vs. spring mattresses, but buying online is not one of them. You can find plenty of excellent options online for both. In this regard, it’s not so much about whether it’s better to buy memory foam or spring online; it’s more about whether you should buy either type online or in person.
Buying Mattresses Online
When it comes to buying mattresses online, there are two types of vendors:
- Stores selling mattresses from a variety of retailers/manufacturers, such as Overstock and US-Mattress
- Stores selling their own mattresses, like Leesa, Casper, and Nectar
What you’ll find with online prices is that they tend to be cheaper because you’re cutting out the middleman. If you go with a company like Overstock or US-Mattress, you can get some good deals, but there is a considerable drawback. You often won’t be able to return the mattress if you don’t like it, or you have to pay a fee to return it.
If you want to go the online route, you may want to visit a brick and mortar store so you can try out a specific mattress before buying it.
In the case of companies that only sell their mattresses, you won’t run into that problem. To lower the barrier to entry, these brands generally offer at least 100-day trial periods, as well as free returns if you don’t end up loving your mattress.
Buying Mattresses in Person
When it comes to buying mattresses in person, the options are endless--and there are a fair few benefits, as well.
The main benefit of buying in person is that you can actually lay down on the mattress. There is a particular mystery factor that comes with purchasing online, so if you take the time to visit a store, this mystery factor disappears.
Not only is being able to try out a variety of beds helpful in determining the right mattress for you, if you have no idea what you’re looking for, a salesperson can also help you. And if you’ve seen a mattress you’re interested in for cheaper online, you may be able to negotiate a better deal.
One downside to buying in person is that while you may get to lay down on the bed for a few minutes, you need to try it for several weeks in your home to know if you like it. And that’s where the online vendors that offer free 100-day trial periods have the advantage.
Spring vs. Foam Mattress: Our Top Picks
Finally, this guide wouldn’t be complete without our top picks for each of these mattress types.
Spring Mattress: Saatva
Saatva received our nomination for the top spring mattress for several reasons. While other brands were trying to figure out how to hop on the foam bandwagon, Saatva did all they could to create the best spring mattress out there--and they did a fantastic job.
Saatva created a mattress made with a double coil system, which allows for excellent pressure relief with little motion transfer. The design includes a layer of memory foam at the top, a euro pillow top, and an organic cotton cover. Another feature we like is that this mattress is available in three firmness levels.
The luxury queen retails for $999, and that price includes free white glove delivery, as well as removal of your old mattress.
Foam Mattress: Puffy
On the foam mattress side, Puffy emerged as the winner. They topped the list for a handful of reasons, one of which is the fact that the mattress lives up to its cloud namesake. Remember what we said about comfort being the main factor when buying a mattress? Customers rave sleeping on this bed is just like sleeping on a cloud.
Puffy actually makes this mattress with their own patented Visco poly foam, which is eight times more effective than standard memory foam at maximizing air flow. It provides four times more support than a regular mattress and cradles your body as you sleep. All of these features helped Puffy rank as the best mattress in 2018.
Do Your Homework
When it comes time to buy a new mattress, our number one piece of advice is to do your homework. You will be sleeping on whatever you choose for the next several years, so take time to research all the options. If you can, try out the mattress you like, and make sure your partner is on board.