Foam vs spring mattress: How to pick the right one for you

Foam vs spring mattresses: Nectar memory foam on the left and the Eve Premium Hybrid on the right
(Image credit: Future)

When it comes to buying a foam vs spring mattress, there’s plenty to choose from, whether you need to keep cool, enjoy extra back support or super-snug levels of coziness. Understanding a little about how the best mattresses are made, as well as the materials they use, is key to finding the right one for you. In our feature, we’ll look at foam vs spring mattresses, and the key differences between them. 

While each type has its pros and cons, one thing’s for sure – both have come a long way in the past few years, with the best memory foam mattress brands and traditional manufacturers developing a range of mattress technologies to provide you with better sleep comfort. 

Gone are the days of squeaky bedsprings or stifling foam causing you to overheat; instead your nights will be filled with restful sleep, ready for the day ahead. In our foam vs spring mattress head-to-head, we look at their materials, design, prices and benefits to help you choose the right one for you.

Foam vs spring mattress: What is a foam mattress?

  • Foam mattress are made from memory foam, poly foam, or latex 
  • They provide excellent pressure relief
  • They can be more expensive than spring mattresses

Foam mattresses are a fairly recent invention  and are made using materials such as memory foam, poly foam, or latex foam, which can vary widely in quality, price and feel. Foam mattresses can use one type of foam or comprise several different blends or layers with each delivering different qualities. 

For instance, a more durable high-density foam might be used for the base of a mattress to provide a stable foundation, while a softer foam will provide a cozier, more breathable surface at the top layer. Many of the best mattresses in a box use memory foam, and all-foam models typically have the following qualities:

The Emma Original Mattress shown with a grey base and white top

The Emma is a top-rated foam mattress in the UK and the US (Image credit: Future)

Supportive – Foam contours to your body to support or ‘cradle’ it holding your posture in the best position for sleep. If you are a side-sleeper then a foam mattress can also be more comfortable.

Responsive – If you apply pressure to foam it bounces back pretty quickly, this is ideal for keeping motion transfer to a minimum, important if you share a bed with a restless partner.

Cozy – Foam is excellent at cushioning pressure points and delivering coziness, without compromising on stability.

Foam vs spring mattress: What is a spring mattress?

  • Spring mattresses are a good choice for heavier body weights
  • They provide plenty of cooling for hot sleepers
  • They are often the more affordable of the two

Spring mattresses have been around for decades and are constructed using metal coils or springs of various lengths and thickness. The design of spring mattresses ranges from rows of uniform spirals to hourglass-shaped coils. Some springs are interlocked to provide a stable surface, while others are individually pocketed within thin fabric to offer a more responsive surface to sleep on. 

The springs in a mattress form the main support layer, which then have a thin fabric or foam layer on top so it is more comfortable for the sleeper to lie on. Hybrid mattresses combine springs with foam more equally, and deliver the stability of a spring base with the comfort of a thicker foam layer. Overall, spring mattresses are:

Breathable – Because of the open construction of springs, there is good airflow throughout the mattress, making it more breathable and ideal if you sleep hot.

Supportive – Spring mattresses can offer firmer support with less give, ideal if you need a stable surface or have a heavier body weight.

Affordable – Spring mattresses are generally more affordable, as the manufacturing and materials are cheaper. However, the quality and support are often reflected in the price.

Foam vs spring mattress: Key differences

  • Foam mattresses are better at preventing motion transfer
  • Spring mattresses are normally more cooling
  • Hybrids offer the benefits of foam and spring

The Nectar Memory Foam Mattress with a grey base and white top

The Nectar is a good example of a supportive foam mattress (Image credit: Future)

While the feel of a mattress is often down to personal choice, it’s worth considering the good and bad points of spring vs foam mattresses, as you might find it makes all the difference to your comfort. Here are some ways in which spring vs foam mattresses can differ:

Motion transfer – When it comes to keeping motion to a minimum, then foam is the smarter choice. Traditional spring mattresses with interconnected coils tend to be less stable when sleepers are moving around, although individually pocketed coils are better at reducing motion transfer. If you or your partner are particularly restless, then memory foam will isolate movement the best.  

Heat distribution – Innerspring mattresses can help if you sleep hot and need a mattress with good airflow, as the open coil construction keeps things cool. However, many foam mattresses now also come with cooling gel technology, as well as more breathable layers, but generally spring mattresses tend to be a better fit if you struggle with your temperature. For more guidance, read our best cooling mattress guide.

Pressure relief – Memory foam is excellent if you are after superior pressure relief, offering the sleeper a cozy surface to sleep on with cushioning at the shoulders, hips and knees. Spring mattresses can be more uncomfortable, especially if you sleep on your side and the pressure points dig in.

Toxicity – Many foam mattresses are prone to what is known as off-gassing. This is when they release compounds, gases and chemicals into the air, often accompanied by a smell that can last a few days after unpacking a new foam mattress. 

Look for foam mattresses that are non-toxic or low VOC (volatile organic compound), as these will generally be safer to sleep on without the unpleasant effects of chemicals in the air.

Alternatively, take a look at our best organic mattress guide for beds made with natural and certified organic materials.

Extra support – Spring mattresses are generally firmer, and can be better suited to heavier body weights too. There are firmer foam mattresses available if you prefer the feel of them, but foam tends to be more ‘huggy’ and conforming than springs.

Foam vs spring mattress: Sleeping positions

  • Side sleepers are often comfier on foam beds
  • Front sleepers are better supported by spring mattresses
  • Back and combination sleepers benefit from either

A woman with brown hair sleeps on a white bed while wearing a sleep tracker on her wrist

Foam and spring mattresses support a range of sleep styles (Image credit: Getty)

Staying comfortable in your preferred sleeping position is essential if you want to get quality sleep. Whichever position you sleep in, it’s important that your posture is properly aligned and that your pressure points are cushioned. But which mattress is best for your position?

Side sleepers – If you mainly sleep on your side, foam mattresses can better support the body, keeping the spine aligned and the pressure points comfortable. The body can sometimes dig into an innerspring mattress and cause discomfort. Hybrid mattresses are a good compromise if you want the support of springs, with the comfort of foam.

Front sleepers – People who sleep on their stomach often find spring mattresses more supportive, as they provide a firmer surface to keep the spine aligned without sinking in and arching the back. However, if you prefer the feel of foam, then firmer mattresses are available or you can add a foam topper.

Back/combo sleepers – If you sleep on your back (or change position), take your pick of foam or springs, depending on what you find most comfortable. Either way, you need to make sure there is enough support for your back, so avoid a mattress that is too soft. Hybrid mattresses are a good choice, as you will get plenty of stability as well as pressure relief.

Foam vs spring mattress: Prices and deals

  • Spring mattresses tend to be more affordable
  • Foam mattresses can be more expensive
  • Hybrids are often pricier than both but last longer

Whether you’re after a budget innerspring mattress or luxury foam option, there’s plenty to choose from, and they are usually at their cheapest among the Black Friday mattress deals and sales. It’s worth bearing in mind that if a mattress is very cheap, then it might not last as long, so think about spending a little more in order to get better value for money. You could also use one of the best mattress toppers to help it last longer and feel comfier.

Another good tip is to choose a mattress with a decent warranty (read our guide on how do mattress warranties work). While the average spring mattress lasts about five to seven years, foam tends to last a little longer, and hybrids can last the longest, and so this is reflected in the price.

Here’s a quick guide to some of the prices you can expect to pay, with some of our trusted picks among both types:

Zinus Green Tea memory foam mattress shown on a bed in the centre of a well-lit bedroom with a log burner and coffee table

The Zinus Green Tea Mattress is one of the cheapest all-foam models you can buy (Image credit: Zinus)

Affordable – Zinus is a very affordable brand, and offers plenty in its range including the Green Tea Memory Foam mattress, which starts from $177 and the Tight Top spring mattress that starts at just $98. They also offer generous warranties and sleep trials. It’s also worth shopping around in the sales, as brands such as Nectar Sleep, Leesa, DreamCloud and Puffy each offer excellent discounts as well as free bedding worth hundreds of dollars, making them even better value for money.

Mid-range – Luxury brand Saatva offers its dual-coil Saatva Classic starting from just under $900. There are plenty of options too, with height and firmness levels. The brand also has an ultra-premium all-foam Loom & Leaf mattress that starts from $999. Both come with a 15-year warranty, as well as a generous sleep trial, making it worth the extra cash. Other brands offering mid-range prices include Casper and Purple.

Expensive – If you’re looking for luxury then you’ll love the Avocado Green Mattress with a superior layer of pocketed coils suitable for all types of sleeper. Prices start from $1,099, while the company’s all-foam Natural Latex Mattress starts at $1,599. The quality you get here is exceptional, with superb materials and a long-lasting product that will keep you sleeping comfortably for years to come. Other top brands include Tempur-Pedic, DreamCloud and WinkBed.

For the latest mattress sales from the biggest brands, see the following guides:

Foam vs spring mattress: Which should you buy?

When it comes to foam vs spring mattresses, both have their merits. It pays to look at your budget, sleeping position and any factors such as if you require extra cooling or minimal motion transfer. 

If you sleep hot or prefer a firmer mattress then an innerspring might be the best option, or if you need extra pressure relief then a foam bed is sure to keep you cozy. 

Choosing a bed with a generous sleep trial is an excellent way to see for yourself whether a new  foam or a spring mattress is for you, especially if you’re thinking about making the switch from one type to the other. Or, if you really can’t decide, consider a hybrid mattress as these marry the benefits of both.

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Grace Franks

Grace is an experienced sleep writer and mattress reviewer who also contributes to our sister site TechRadar, among other Future plc brands. She's a big fan of organic sleep products and has recently invested in a wool mattress topper that she quite happily describes as "life-changing." (Hey, we're serious about our sleep products). When she isn't testing mattresses or writing about sleep, Grace enjoys reading and creative writing, and incorporates meditation and yoga into her wellness routine.