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Bed Basics
Bed Basics

Innerspring vs. Memory Foam Mattresses: Choosing the Right One for You

Two mattresses against blue back ground with transparent stars.
Ashlee Wadeson

Is it time for a new mattress? As you’ve probably discovered (or soon will), there’s a lot to consider. A good place to start is with the size you need. Once you have that, it’s important to determine the right feel. That can depend on the construction of the bed and the materials inside.

Here, we’ll look at the two most common mattress types: innersprings and memory foam. We’ll review what they are, what they’re made of, the benefits of each and which one might be best for you. And when you’ve finished reading? You’ll be armed with the info you need to choose the type of mattress that will give you the kind of sleep you’ve been dreaming of.

Let’s get into it.

What Is an Innerspring Mattress?

A cross section of an innerspring mattress labeled: Quilted foam layer, cushioning support foam, and verticoil springs
Ashlee Wadeson

Innerspring mattresses have been around for about 100 years. Chances are you grew up sleeping on a spring bed. Innersprings have stood the test of time for a very good reason: They’ve helped countless numbers of people sleep well. So what has made these beds so popular for so long? It’s all about the springs.

According to Stephanie Andersen, a Mattress Firm Sleep Expert® and senior store manager, “Innerspring beds are a great choice for anyone who just likes the way that type of bed feels. Most of us grew up sleeping on them, and a lot of us want to keep sleeping on them.”

Now, manufacturers use one of two different types of innersprings when making their beds—open and pocketed. No matter which type, they do the same thing: create a suspension system for your body.

Open coils are metal springs that support your body and form a highly responsive and durable surface to sleep on. Each is tied to another with heavy-gauge wire. This approach causes them to react to your body’s positions and movements in groups. Open coils are highly responsive to the heaviest parts of your body because more weight allows multiple attached coils to depress. But this spring design is less responsive to lighter body parts, like your shoulders and knees, because they simply don’t have the weight to sink into the support system.

Enter pocketed coils. These springs are individually wrapped in a variety of fabrics, including cotton and polyester, and not tied to the coils next to them. They’re designed to move independently—and that’s their big advantage. Individualized movement of coils translates to focused response, more effective body contouring, greater support, and the chances of feeling your bed partner’s tosses and turns are significantly reduced (toss out the term “reduced motion transfer” to describe this and any mattress salesperson will be impressed!).

Another plus for spring mattresses? They’re breathable. Air is free to circulate around and through the coils helping you sleep cooler and drier.

What Is a Memory Foam Mattress? 

The crossview of a memory foam mattress labeled. Circular Knit Fabric, Charcoal-Infused Memory Foam, and Support Foam Layer.
Ashlee Wadeson

Memory foam beds have become extremely popular in recent years for their ability to provide luxurious comfort, conforming support and welcome pressure relief for achy joints. Not long ago, these beds were considered heat trappers. Now, breathability and advanced cooling technologies have been added to their long list of memory foam benefits.

To feel the difference between a memory foam and an innerspring bed, all it takes is for you to plop down on one. You’ll immediately feel how the topmost layer of memory foam creates a cozy, comforting feel as it hugs your body. Stephanie explains, “They’re designed to cradle your body and fit like a glove around your shape.” But this cushioned conformation was initially seen as a drawback.

Early on, memory foam mattresses weren’t as responsive to your body’s movements as coil beds. They felt sluggish and made movement difficult. They didn’t have any bounce. Those negatives turned a lot of people off to the idea of buying one. Stephanie says, “There was a delay when you moved because the memory foam needed time to adapt to your body—and it wasn’t as immediate as a spring bed.” In relatively short order, bed manufacturers developed foam materials that gave people the responsiveness—the bounce— they were looking for. She adds, “Today’s memory foam beds respond pretty quickly.”

There was also another hot button: heat! The first generation of memory foam beds didn’t breathe or regulate temperature very well. Again, bed manufacturers responded. New materials such as gel memory foam and open-cell foam, plus advanced Phase Change Material (PCM), were created to bring new dimensions of breathability and cooling to help those who sleep hot. Stephanie goes on to explain, “Looking back at how early memory foam beds have evolved and improved, it’s not fair to compare them to what’s available today—even in lower-priced beds.”

One misconception about memory foam mattresses is they don’t contain innersprings. But that’s not entirely true. There are 100% foam beds. However, most incorporate coils into their design for added comfort, support and responsiveness.

When a memory foam mattress is approximately half foam and half innersprings? That’s a hybrid. They’re up next.

What Is a Hybrid Mattress?

Hybrid beds are a relative newcomer to mattress options. Basically, they give you the best of both worlds—the responsiveness of innersprings with the body-hugging support, superior pressure relief and limited motion transfer offered by memory foam. Many of these beds also feature advanced breathability and cooling technologies, much to the delight of hot sleepers.

What Are the Differences Between Innerspring & Memory Foam Mattresses?

There are similarities—and quite a few differences—between memory foam and innerspring beds. Let’s take a look at some of them:


The feel of a bed refers to its level of firmness. And when it comes to feeling soft, medium or firm, innerspring and memory foam beds aren’t that different from each other. The key is finding the level of firmness that’s right for you.

There’s a big difference, however, in the way a memory foam mattress feels. The top layer contours to your body as soon as you lie down. This comforting feeling has been described as a bit of “squish” or “sink” into the bed surface.

It’s that squish or sink which ultimately leads to a memory foam’s greatest benefits—relieving pressure on painful joints and reducing the feeling of your partner’s movements throughout the night. More on those in a bit.

Comfort & Support

These are two critical components of choosing a bed that’s right for you. The feel or comfort level are terms that describe how soft or firm it is. And a bed’s comfort helps set the stage for your total sleep experience. Stephanie has this advice for your mattress-buying journey: “It’s important not to confuse the way a bed feels with support. When you choose a new mattress, it’s paramount to choose one that’s best for the position you sleep in while still giving the support your body needs.”

Support is critical because that is what distributes your weight across the bed surface and keeps your body resting comfortably. Proper support also places and keeps your spine aligned in the optimal position for rest. “When you stand up straight and then get that same spinal alignment when lying on a bed—that’s the level of support you’re after,” Andersen says. “And you can get great support from both innerspring and memory foam beds.”

Without proper support, your body has to work overtime to adjust itself to get into a comfortable position—and keep it there—at a time when you should be catching zzz’s. And if your body is working instead of resting, any aches and pains you deal with could be magnified.

Pressure Relief

Soft and medium innerspring beds provide pressure relief for shoulders, hips, lower back and knees. However, this is where memory foam beds excel. Instead of depressing the surface of an innerspring mattress, those critical joints ease into layers of memory foam, helping reduce discomfort. Stephanie agrees. “Memory foam beds are designed to be superior when it comes to relieving pressure on sensitive parts of the body when compared to a standard innerspring mattress,” she said.


Spring beds have more bounce. You found that out as a child when you discovered your parent’s bed could double as a trampoline. While lack of responsiveness was a big disadvantage of memory foam beds when they first came out, things have improved. Today’s memory foam beds respond to body movements in a way that is similar—but not identical—to innersprings. Hybrid mattresses featuring both innersprings and memory foam can get you close to the feeling of a traditional spring bed.


Most often, memory foam beds are more expensive than their innerspring counterparts. With so many options available, if you have your heart set on buying a memory foam bed, you’re sure to find one in your price range.

Durability & Lifespan 

Better innerspring mattresses should provide many years of great zzz’s. Seven to eight years is common. Memory foam beds improve on that—lasting about 10 years. However, there are ways to help extend the life of both mattress types. Perhaps the most important is the use of a quality mattress protector. Using one will prevent stains and spills from reaching the top fabric. Plus, a mattress protector can also prevent the buildup of bacteria and help stop mites and dust from entering the bed, which can limit the life of the materials.

Pros & Cons of a Memory Foam Mattress

The pros

  • Good for all sleep positions 
  • Top foam layer conforms to your body for comfort 
  • Solid support to keep your spine in ideal alignment for sleep 
  • Reduced motion transfer 
  • Superior pressure relief 
  • Available with cooling technologies
  • Hypoallergenic 
  • No sagging 
  • Long mattress life 

The cons

  • Often more expensive 
  • Lack of immediate response to body movements 
  • Heavier to move  

Pros & Cons of an Innerspring Mattress

The pros

  • Responsive feel and “bounce” 
  • Even weight distribution for comfort 
  • Properly aligns your spine 
  • Fair motion isolation 
  • Breathable 
  • Available with cooling technologies
  • Frequently less expensive than memory foam 
  • Long life and easy to move 

The cons

  • Pressure relief—not as effective as memory foam 
  • Often more motion transfer than memory foam 

Memory Foam Mattresses Are Better For: 

  • All sleep positions 
  • Easing joint discomfort 
  • Light sleepers who wake up due to their partner’s tosses and turns 
  • Hot sleepers looking for breathability and cooling technology 

Innerspring Mattresses Are Better For:   

  • Those who want the same feel they’re familiar with 
  • A more responsive sleep surface 
  • Hot sleepers looking for enhanced breathability 
  • Easing back pain 

Innerspring vs. Memory Foam—Conclusions 

So, which mattress type will give you the zzz’s you’ve been dreaming of? It depends! Your final choice should be made on your specific needs—and budget—and after trying a number of options at your local mattress retailer.

That said, memory foam beds are strong performers when it comes to providing proper support, effective pressure relief and reduced motion transfer. Innerspring beds will be best for anyone looking for a familiar, responsive feel, enhanced breathability and to help ease back pain. Stephanie suggests to think of the two types of beds this way: “Memory foam mattresses are designed to be more adaptive, while innerspring beds are created to be more responsive.”

Research your options and test the beds you’re interested in!

Finding the Best Innerspring or Memory Foam at Mattress Firm 

No retailer has more memory foam and innerspring mattress options from top brands than Mattress Firm. Plus, they have an incredibly experienced store team. Their Sleep Experts® train for more than 200 hours, and it’s super helpful to have their knowledge about sleep and the products they offer on your side as you shop.

Plus, Mattress Firm wants to make sure that every part of your bed-buying experience is positive. And they go to great lengths to make sure you’re happy with the mattress you choose. They guarantee you’re getting the best price on the bed you want and give you 120 nights to try it out. If it’s not everything you expected? They’ll help you find the one that is. So, between help from their Sleep Experts® and the Love Your Mattress Guarantee®, Mattress Firm makes a potentially frustrating process a whole lot easier.

And if you’re just starting to browse and shop, Mattress Firm can give you a head start when it comes to narrowing down your search. It’s called MattressMatcher®. Answer a few simple questions, and you’ll get recommended choices with just a click. Stephanie is a big fan of MattressMatcher® and the role it can play in the buying process. “Shopping for a new bed can be confusing, especially with so many options available. MattressMatcher® gives you personalized suggestions to consider and helps you connect with a system that can improve your life,” she says.

Frequently Asked Questions About Memory Foam vs. Innerspring Mattresses

Which type of mattress is best for back pain?

Due to their firmer support and lack of a ‘sink-into-the-bed ‘ surface, innerspring beds can be more effective than memory foam when it comes to helping ease back pain. As with any health condition, it is suggested to contact your doctor or health professional for advice.

Do innerspring mattresses transfer motion more than memory foam mattresses?

As a general rule, memory foam beds are more efficient at reducing motion transfer. So, if you’re a light sleeper and are often disturbed by your partner’s movements, you’ll want to check out memory foam mattresses.

Do memory foam mattresses sleep hot?

They definitely used to! When memory foam beds first became available, the foams simply didn’t breathe or regulate temperature well. As a result, these mattresses rightly earned the reputation for being hot. Today, advanced foams, including gel and open cell, have increased breathability and improved temperature regulation. In addition, some bed manufacturers have added advanced cooling technologies to their memory foam beds.

Which type of mattress is better for side sleepers: innerspring or memory foam?

Because of the superior pressure relief, memory foam beds are often a better choice for side sleepers than innersprings. When sleeping on a foam bed, side sleepers will feel their shoulder(s) and hips “sink” into the mattress surface, providing much-needed comfort for joints.

How do I choose the right mattress type for my sleep preferences?

The best way to choose a mattress is with the help of a knowledgeable salesperson who understands your needs and the products they sell. It’s also important to try bed options before you buy. If you want a quick and easy way to get quality recommendations based on everything from your sleep position to your budget, give Mattress Firm’s MattressMatcher® a try online or in-store.

Who should sleep on memory foam?

With so many options available, memory foam beds can be a great choice for anyone looking to improve their sleep. They’re just right for side sleepers and couples due to their advanced pressure relief and motion isolation.

Who should sleep on innersprings?

Innerspring beds can be a good choice for every sleep position. And there are many more to choose from. Plus, they’re a particularly good choice for those who grew up on coil beds and love the “bounce” and responsive feel innerspring beds provide. And because of their solid foundation of support, they can be a good choice if you have lower back pain. Stephanie points out, “They’re also great for those who don’t like the feeling of ‘sinking’ into memory foam, anyone with movement restrictions, and if you’re looking for a great bed at a lower price.”

Is an innerspring mattress the same as a hybrid?

No. Hybrid beds are made up of approximately 50% memory foam and 50% innersprings—giving you the benefits of both.

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