Foam or innerspring mattresses: Which provides the best support?



When you’re shopping for a new mattress, there are a few features you’ll want to consider: comfort, support, durability, and price. Support comes from the core of the mattress, and it’s important that your mattress provides adequate support for your back, shoulders, and hips.

What does proper support look like? A mattress should hold your body in its natural “position of function,” just like your standing posture. This allows your muscles and tendons the opportunity to relax and regenerate while you are sleeping.

So, does an innerspring mattress or a foam mattress provide better support? The truth is that both styles can provide adequate adult support — but not all innerspring and foam mattresses are created equally.

Here’s what you should look for when you’re mattress shopping:


Proper innerspring support

Support in an innerspring mattress comes from the innerspring unit. In order to get the best support, you’ll want a high-quality innerspring unit inside. Ask the sales associate about the coils they use in their mattresses:

  • Why type of coil is it? There are a number of different types of coils used in today’s mattresses: offset, Bonnell, pocketed, and continuous.
  • How many coils are in the unit? Even though many people believe the number of coils in a mattress is the key indicator of quality, a combination of other factors, including coil design, wire thickness, and the number of coil rotations actually determine how well the mattress will support your body and how long it will stay comfortable and supportive.
  • What gauge is the wire that creates the coil? The lower the gauge (or thickness of the wire), the more firm and supportive the innerspring will be.
  • How many rotations are in the coil? The number turns or rotations in a coil can affect its ability to bounce back and provide good support over time. The more turns, the better.

Pocketed coils are popular in many of today’s mattresses because they provide a soft feel — but this style often does not provide adequate support. The coils in this type of innerspring unit are not laced together and are not able to work together as a complete network to provide support to your entire body. The coils are also typically made up of very thin gauge wire. We recommend avoiding this type of innerspring mattress.

Ultimately, there’s only one thing you need to remember when it comes to innerspring support: more metal = more support.

Learn more about why we don't use pocketed coils in our mattresses.

Proper foam support

Foam mattresses, whether they’re memory foam or latex foam, are typically constructed using several layers of different types of foam. If the mattress is two sided, the support will come from the layer in the center or core of the mattress. If your mattress is one sided, it will come from the layer that is at the bottom. The support layer is typically the thickest layer.

For the best support, you’ll want to look for a mattress that features a high-density foam core, typically higher than 2.0 lbs/ft3.

We also highly recommend looking for a foam mattress made with high-quality, American-made foam. Cheap foam and foam mattresses are flooding into the market from Asia, and this foam often doesn’t live up to the quality and safety standards set here in the U.S.

Learn more about the foams we use in our mattresses.

Why we don’t recommend air or water beds for support

Innerspring units and high-density foam cores provide active support to your back and joints. But mattresses that use water or air rely on displacement — your body displacing the air or the water within the mattress — in order to provide support. The less air (or water) in the mattress will make it feel softer, but reducing air or water reduces the support the mattress is able to provide to your body.

We do not believe that air or water beds provide the proper support for healthy sleep.

Check out Mattress Shopping 101.

Ready to start your mattress buying journey? Come to The Original Mattress Factory first. No one knows more about what makes a mattress great than our team. Whether you buy from us or not, you’ll be better prepared to make a smart mattress buying decision. Find a store near you.