Foam Vs. Spring Mattress

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The first order of business when buying a new 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 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 the two main different types of mattresses. Let’s jump right in.

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What Is A Foam the Mattress?

A hand presses into a foam mattress, showing how foam layers contour to the shape of the hand.

Popular among online mattress shoppers, all-foam mattresses come in a wide variety of options, ranging in firmness and price alike. Most modern mattresses feature between 2 and 5 layers of foam.

The most well known type of foam mattress is made of memory foam, but you can also find a non memory foam mattress that suits your sleep preferences.

Types of Foam

A foam mattress typically consists of a combination of three primary types of foam.

Polyurethane (Poly) Foam

Many modern foam beds feature foam made from polyurethane; this material is often simply referred to as “polyfoam.” Compared to memory foam mattresses, polyfoam mattresses can be springier and provide more bounce.

There are three types of polyurethane foam used in mattresses:

  • Standard polyfoam
  • High-density polyfoam
  • High-resiliency polyfoam

Of these types, high-resilience foam is the most expensive to use, making it rare in non-luxury mattresses. Additionally, high-density foam provides more support than standard polyfoam.

Polyfoam can be the primary type of foam used in a mattress, but it is known to be used for comfort foam layers on spring mattresses, as well.

Memory Foam

Also made with polyurethane, memory foam also consists of additional components that allow it to provide more support for sleepers with its increased density. Full memory foam mattresses are great for sleepers who need pain and pressure relief.

The name of this type of foam refers to the way it can hold the shape of your body for a few seconds after you get up. Memory foam is also available in different varieties, including:

  • Gel memory foam
  • Open-cell memory foam

Gel memory foam mattresses offer improvements to airflow and cooling compared to the standard foam options. Similarly, open-cell memory foam mattresses are designed to promote better airflow through foam layers and create a softer surface.

Latex Foam

Known as an environmentally-friendly and durable material, latex foam makes a great springless mattress with options that range in firmness to suit any preferences. Compared to the other types of foam, latex foam mattresses are typically the most expensive, so it is rare to see a foam mattress that consists solely of latex materials.

What Is A Spring Mattress?

A man sleeps on his side, facing away from the viewer, on a spring mattress.

Spring mattresses use metal springs to support the inner structure of the mattress. Also known as an innerspring mattress, a spring mattress can contain dozens or hundreds of springs. The type of springs used in a regular mattress, as well as the thickness of the coils, can also impact the firmness of the mattress.

The number of springs in a coil mattress can impact the support and comfort provided, but there are other factors (such as the mattress topper and other layers) that can affect your sleep experience. The best coil mattress for you will depend on things like your price range, the level of comfort you want, and the firmness you desire.

Types of Springs

Also known as mattress coils, the springs that make up an innerspring mattress are not created equal. The shape, size, and structure of the coils in your mattress can change how it feels.

Bonnell Coils

Found in the original spring mattress design and still used in some mattresses today, bonnell coils are simple and cost-effective. With a classic hourglass shape, bonnell springs can be used to make mattresses softer or firmer, making them a versatile component.

Pocket Springs

A pocket spring mattress features pocketed coils, which are metal coils wrapped in fabric to allow independent motion and reduce noise. Because these coils are expensive to make, they are often only featured in high-end or luxury mattresses. They also offer substantial pressure relief with a bouncier feel than other options. 

Offset Coils

While somewhat similar to pocket coils, offset springs offer more firmness because they are connected with hinge coils that allow them to flex and maintain their shape as needed. In mattresses with high firmness ratings (think upwards of 7), these offset coils will often be used, though their application is limited outside of these mattresses.

Continuous Coils

The least flexible but most efficient and supportive type of spring is the continuous coil. These coils use a single piece of metal to form a “row” of coils, providing a lot of firm support. Continuous coils do not allow mattresses to mold to your body and offer targeted pressure relief, however.

What Is A Hybrid Mattress?

While not the focus of this article, we want to acknowledge a third option: the hybrid spring and foam mattress. These mattresses utilize a traditional coil or spring mattress with a foam layer on top.

The hybrid design is intended to combine the benefits of spring and foam mattresses, providing support and comfort for a range of sleepers. However, these mattresses can be quite heavy and difficult to move, and there are limited options on the market, many of which tend to fall in a high price range.

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.

Foam Mattresses

An unzipped foam mattress, showing the layers of different foam inside.

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 foams: 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.

Pros

  • High level of comfort compared to the spring mattress
  • Contours to your body (especially with memory foam mattresses) for custom support
  • Pressure relief on areas like the hips, shoulders, and back
  • Plenty of motion isolation
  • The cost has lowered due to the prevalence of online retailers that cut out the middleman
  • Plus, they’re easy to find, with plenty of online options to choose from, like a memory foam bed in a box
  • You don’t have to flip them
  • They’re anti-microbial

Cons

  • Foam design tends to make these mattresses hot for the sleeper
  • Quality varies among foam mattresses so buyers must be discerning
  • Cost can still be prohibitive
  • Requires a break-in period
  • Some sleepers prefer a firmer mattress than what foam mattresses can offer
  • May arrive with a slight odor

Spring Mattresses

The interior of a spring mattress, showing cloth-covered springs.

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.

Pros

  • Materials used are cheap, translating to a (relatively) low cost for the consumer
  • Generally provides better temperature control than foam mattresses
  • More bounce than foam mattresses
  • They’re comfortable for most people
  • Coils provide support for your weight and do not give a sinking sensation
  • No break-in period

Cons

  • Uneven zones of pressure may cause discomfort in areas like hips and shoulders
  • Spring mattresses tend to have shorter lifespans
  • Minimal motion isolation
  • They must be flipped and rotated regularly to maintain them
  • They’re prone to sagging
  • They may be noisy

Spring vs. Foam Mattress: Which Mattress is 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.

A smiling man crouches beside a foam mattress as he decides what to buy.

Budget

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 spend, if the mattress doesn’t align with your needs, you won’t get the sleep you want.

Sleep Style

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 sleeping position 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

Side sleepers want to avoid too much pressure on their hips and shoulders, so they should look for a softer mattress. In most cases, a foam mattress will provide the comfort and support side sleepers need to sleep well.

Back Sleepers

Back sleepers often benefit from a firmer mattress for enhanced spine support. Spring mattresses tend to be firmer than foam mattresses, making them a good option for back sleepers. 

Stomach Sleepers

As with back sleepers, stomach sleepers may benefit from a firmer surface, so they should consider a coil mattress when in the market for a new one. However, stomach sleepers can also suffer from stiffness in the neck and back, so firmer foam options can offer comfort and relief.

Combination Sleepers

If you switch positions throughout the night or sleep differently depending on the day, you will need to consider your specific needs before committing to a mattress. Foam mattresses can provide cushion for your body and help relieve pressure and pain as needed, but a spring mattress will give you necessary support regardless of how you fall asleep.

It may also be worth considering your current mattress, how comfortable and supportive it has been, and deciding if you want to try an alternative in the event that you are dissatisfied with your experience.

Body Weight

Your body weight is another thing to keep in mind, and this is where we can see some clear differences between traditional 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.

What Qualities to Consider in Foam Vs. Spring Mattresses

In addition to your personal needs and preferences, it is also important to assess the various features and qualities of the mattresses you are considering.

A man lifts up the corner of a spring or foam mattress.

Bounce

Traditional mattresses, namely those made with innersprings, have some bounce to them. Bounciness does not directly correlate to comfort or support, and whether you want your mattress to have substantial bounce is a matter of personal preference. Bouncy mattresses can be easier to get up off of, and they are often preferred among active couples.

Foam mattresses rarely have much bounce because they are designed to minimize motion transference and provide comfort above all else.

Firmness

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. Spring mattresses are, on average, firmer than foam mattresses, but you should consider reviews and specific qualities of mattresses you are considering, as well.

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 Feel

How a mattress feels largely depends on how firm and soft the mattress is. Spring mattresses tend to have a bouncier feel, which means sleepers will feel that they are resting completely on top of the mattress because of its firm support. Sleeping on a foam mattress, however, will usually result in a softer, more contouring feel.

Durability

Different types of mattresses will often have different timelines for maintaining their structural integrity, comfort, and support levels. With extended use, spring mattresses are more likely to sag or even expose metal coils. Foam mattresses are more durable and have a reduced risk of sagging even with extended use because they lack metal springs.

Motion Isolation

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 on which 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.

Pain Reduction

If you are seeking pressure relief or pain reduction from your mattress, you should consider the different capabilities of foam vs. spring mattresses. While spring mattresses tend to provide more support all around, they may not be ideal for targeted pressure relief, which can exacerbate existing discomfort.

Foam mattresses can provide better support for your spine by contouring to your body, allowing for isolated pain and pressure relief.

Temperature Regulation

While sleeping, body temperature regulation can make a big difference in your comfort level. Your mattress may retain or disperse your body heat depending on its construction. Some mattresses allow more air flow, which promotes a cooler sleeping experience, while other mattresses may feature a cooling gel infusion to keep hot sleepers from overheating.

In general, spring mattresses are better for those who sleep hot because the coil layer promotes better air flow. Foam mattresses, on the other hand, tend to retain body heat.

Ventilation

When considering body temperature regulation, it is important to think about how the materials in a mattress are ventilated. Most foam mattresses are too dense to have sufficient ventilation, but coil mattresses have plenty of open space to allow air to flow through, reducing the retention of body heat to keep you cool at night.

Quality

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.

Lifespan

Knowing how long mattresses tend to last with normal use can help you make your decision, as well. Spring and foam mattresses typically have similar lifespans, though they may last longer depending on the brand, size, and care.

In general, spring mattresses can be used for 5 to 10 years; because of the metal coils within them, they can be prone to wearing out, resulting in less comfortable sleep.

Foam mattresses, on the other hand, typically last at least 7 years and are often comfortable for more than 10 years.

Memory Foam vs. Spring Mattress: Which is Better to Buy Online?

A woman leans down to test a foam mattress.

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 a memory foam bed or spring bed 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:

  1. Stores selling mattresses from a variety of retailers/manufacturers, such as Overstock and US-Mattress
  2. 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’ll 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.

Coil Vs. Foam Mattress: Our Top Picks

Finally, this guide wouldn’t be complete without our top picks for each of these mattress types.

Best Spring Mattress: Saatva

An up-close picture of the interior structure of an innerspring mattress.

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 supportive 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.

Benefits of a Saatva Spring Mattress

  • Best spring mattress on the market
  • Double coil constructure for added support
  • Pressure relief
  • Minimal motion transfer
  • Memory foam layer for comfort
  • Three firmness levels
  • Reasonable price point for luxury mattress
  • White glove delivery
  • Old mattress removal

Best 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 that 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.

A male side sleeper rests on a pillow that has been photoshopped into the clouds. Puffy mattresses offer a cloud-like sleep experience.

Benefits of a Puffy Foam Mattress

  • Cloud-like softness
  • Exceptional comfort
  • Patented foam technology
  • Maximized air flow
  • Excellent support
  • Free shipping in the continental U.S.
  • Limited lifetime warranty
Puffy foam mattress offers cloud-like comfort.
Puffy Lux foam mattress has 5-7 firmness and medium-plush comfort.

What to Look For In A Spring or Foam Mattress

Regardless of the mattress you go with, you should consider similar factors independent of the materials that make up your mattress. These include:

  • Quality
  • Durability
  • Support
  • Comfort
  • Warranty
  • Sufficient trial period

Individual preferences often influence your ultimate choice when buying mattresses, but considering how mattresses are made and what reviews have to say about them can help you make an informed decision.

Frequently Asked Questions About Spring Mattress Vs. Foam Mattress

How long do memory foam mattresses last?

On average, foam mattresses can last between 7 and 10 years, but many modern mattresses can last more than 10 years.

What are the differences between innerspring vs memory foam?

The main difference between innerspring mattresses and memory foam mattresses is the materials used to manufacture them. Innerspring mattresses feature metal coils that provide the mattress with shape and structure, offering a firmer sleeping surface.

On the other hand, memory foam mattresses are primarily composed of memory foam, which is much softer, holds your body’s shape for tailored support, and typically lasts longer with regular use.

Which is better, memory foam vs. springs?

There are many factors to consider when deciding between a memory foam mattress and a spring mattress. These include:

  • Your sleep style
  • Your budget
  • Your weight
  • Mattress firmness
  • Mattress softness
  • Mattress durability
  • Mattress lifespan

When choosing between spring or coil mattresses and foam mattresses, you should consider the above qualities as well as your own personal preferences.

Spring Mattress Vs. Foam Bottom Line: 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.

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