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What’s the Difference between an Innerspring mattress vs memory foam? Get the Full Story

Innerspring Mattress vs Memory Foam

Years ago, you would walk into a store and pick out a mattress that fits the size of your bedroom furniture bed frame. You laid on the mattress in the showroom to find one that was comfortable and then bought what you liked. 

It’s not that easy these days but for a very good reason. There are so many choices! You can buy one in a store or buy online, some even come compressed into a box. It can be a little overwhelming trying to choose what is best for you. 

Two of the most popular types of mattresses are the older, classic innerspring and the newer memory foam options. They both have their pros and cons but both can offer a great sleeping experience. Which one is best for you depends on what type of sleeper you are. 

No matter what type of mattresses are on the market, you should take the time to choose the one that is going to offer you a good night’s sleep. Factors like whether you sleep hot or cold, whether or not you toss and turn throughout the night if you have back or neck pain and your budget are all the things you need to take into consideration. These two mattress options have different histories and characteristics that will also factor into your decision.

Innerspring Mattress vs Memory Foam


This is the oldest and most well-known type of mattress. The steel spring was invented in 1857 specifically for use in chairs to make them more supportive. It was used in the first innerspring mattress in 1871 by a German inventor named Heinrich Westphal and was a huge improvement to early mattresses. Innersprings soon became popular worldwide. They provided good support and were both springy and firm. People still love them today as some feel that you do not sink into an innerspring mattress, you sleep more on top of it. The firmness is established by combining the steel coils with a foam topper for softness. They are especially good for those who sleep on their stomachs or move around a lot. This type of mattress was practically the only option until the 1990s.

  • Bonnell springs – These springs flex and conform to the person sleeping on the mattress. They are continuous coils meaning they are made from a single wire. Bonnell springs are fairly good at isolating motion so you don’t drive your partner nuts if you move around all night. They are the most economical type of spring. 
  • Pocket Coil – With a pocket coil mattress, each coil is wrapped in its own pouch of fabric. The benefit is that each spring interacts on its own instead of as a group. They are great for conforming to the body of the sleeper and pretty good at isolating motion. 
  • Offset – These coils are great for avoiding squeak when you sleep. They are shaped similar to Bonnell as they have an hourglass form, but both ends of the spring have been flattened. The way the edges are formed allows the spring to contour to the shape of the body. They are sturdy and offer great support while being quiet when you shift in the night. 
  • Marshall/Pocketed – these springs are wrapped and not wired together. They work on their own rather than in a group and offer more support than the others while also isolating motion. They have a barrel shape and are thinner gauge steel. Thin steel means a softer mattress. Thicker means firmer and more durable.

Memory Foam

Memory foam mattresses are much different than innerspring. They’re known for having a bit of sink, creating a snug feeling and contouring to the body. The mattresses are made out of polyurethane which was created by NASA in the 1960s to be used for seats in space shuttles and was adopted by the mattress market in the 90s. It is known as a viscoelastic and conforms to the contours of your body then bounces back to its original shape when you move. Memory foam is known for making you feel like you are sinking into the mattress versus sleeping on top of it. It is really good for side sleepers as it softens the areas of hips and shoulders, offering pressure point relief, good spinal alignment, and motion isolation. These mattresses are hypoallergenic and work well with adjustable beds. Memory foam is great for distributing bodyweight and relieves the sleeper from heat and pressure along with supporting the body throughout the night.

Memory Foam
  • Open Cell – Memory foam has a reputation for not being very breathable and the open cell type was designed to combat this. Air flows back and forth through tiny pockets in the foam rather than getting caught in the denser material of original memory foam.
  • Gel foam – Another way for dealing with the temperature increase is to infuse the memory foam with gel which absorbs body heat, giving you a cooler sleep. The gel warms up very slowly so you do not feel the heat throughout the night. 

Pros and Cons of Innerspring

Innerspring mattresses are the oldest type of mattress but are still the first choice for many mattress shoppers. They tend to be the most affordable options and can fit almost any budget. Innerspring mattresses have a wide range of firmness levels and are available at almost any home furniture retailer as well as online. They are reliable and have enough variety to meet the needs of almost any sleeper. 

Like any product, though, they have their downsides. Innersprings aren’t as equipped to target pain and pressure points on the body, especially if they are on the less expensive end of the spectrum. They get a little squeaky as they age and the springs get older. These mattresses have a shorter lifespan than some of the newer designs such as memory foam. 

Pros and Cons of Memory Foam 

These mattresses are fairly new compared to innerspring but have been extremely successful. They provide great support for pressure points and are good for spinal alignment, which is important not just to help with pain management but also to prevent it. The mattress itself is good for restless sleepers as the foam doesn’t have a high transfer rate. If you or your partner toss and turn a lot at night, you have less chance of disturbing each other. Memory foam is hypoallergenic so dust mites and other allergens shouldn’t be a problem. These mattresses work really well with adjustable beds for those that need a little more comfort. They are durable and can last up to a decade. 

As with innerspring, memory foam mattresses have their downsides. They’re more expensive than other mattresses so you may have to carefully budget when choosing one. They also tend to absorb heat which can be problematic for people who sleep hot. There are memory foam mattresses that have cooling technology but, again, you may pay a premium for this. Finally, memory foam emits a slight chemical odor. Many manufacturers say this will dissipate in time, but it can be disconcerting if you have a sensitive sense of smell.

Choosing The Best Option For You

Choosing The Best Option For You

No matter what you choose, it’s important to remember that mattress technology has come a long way. Both innerspring and memory foam has improved and are certainly both great options for a good night’s sleep. The newest beds contour to the sleeper’s shape and provide good spinal alignment and help with pain management. Both types of mattresses are comfortable and provide support. Innerspring tends to have more bounce back than memory foam since memory foam absorbs pressure and slowly regains its shape. Memory foam tends to feel like you sink into it and innerspring holds you up more. 

As we mentioned, memory foam holds onto heat whereas pocket coils have good airflow. Innerspring mattresses also tend to be a little less expensive but, with newer technology, the foam tends to manage heat and you can choose from various firmness levels if you do not like the sinking feeling.

Best Type For Back Pain

Many sleepers suffer from back and neck pain so choosing a mattress with appropriate support is helpful. Innersprings with Bonnell or other continuous coils tend to offer less support and do not do as good of a job as memory foam in providing spinal alignment. That said, the pocket coils are generally as good as memory foam. Your decision may come down to the overall feel. Memory foam is a little softer and the pocket coils springier. Both will help with back pain but it will be up to you with the overall feel you prefer. 


– Beautyrest Innerspring Mattress

– Sweetnight Memory Foam Mattress

Sleep Type Recommendations

     Side sleeper – Side sleepers should be concerned with pressure points. They need a mattress that molds well to their shape and keeps their spine aligned. Both memory foam and pocket springs can do this but the continuous coil will not. There are also hybrid options that can help.

Suggestion – Nectar Mattress

      Stomach sleeper – These sleepers are one of the easiest to please. Unless they have issues with back pain any of the innerspring or memory foam mattresses are good. They may be more problematic for women of those who are overweight because they don’t have a lot of give.

Suggestion: Suiforlun Mattress

●    Back sleeper – Back sleepers don’t need a lot of extra support so choosing a mattress comes down to personal preference rather than sleep position. One thing to consider is whether you have back pain. If so, look for a mattress bed with good edge support for when you move around at nightSuggestion:  Nest Hybrid Mattress

Final Thoughts

There’s no clear answer to which of these mattress types is better. Both innerspring and memory foam have their pros and cons and each works for various sleepers and their styles. Both offer advantages and disadvantages depending on the qualities you are looking for and what you are most comfortable with. Memory foam helps people with chronic back pain while innersprings are great if you’re looking for a firm bed that makes getting in and out easy. Innerspring is more budget-friendly but still offers great support comparable to memory foam. 

Decide which works for you based on your own sleep temperature, style of sleep, amount of restlessness, and any other sleep problems that may affect you or your partner. Your choice should be based on personal preference and what works best for you. Looking at the good and the bad while considering your budget and overall sleep needs helps you choose the right mattress for you. You may even be able to make up for some of the cons by buying the right bedding and mattress toppers so it’s okay to be flexible. Remember, the goal is to find a mattress that gives both you and partner what you need to enjoy the best sleep possible.