Innerspring Vs Memory Foam Mattresses – The Ultimate Showdown

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Shopping for mattresses is so easy. There are no hard decisions to make, and the process is not stressful at all. I personally just close my eyes, throw a dart, and whatever mattress it hits…that’s my mattress for the next ten years.

I am, of course, joking. Mattress shopping is anything but easy, and the choices can be overwhelming. However, a great place to start is by choosing a type of mattress.

Innerspring and memory foam mattresses are pretty much the most popular types of mattresses. To help all of the stressed-out mattress shoppers out there, I wanted to throw these two into a ring and let them duke it out.

So, let the ultimate mattress showdown begin. Cue “Eye Of The Tiger,” and let’s get down to business.

What Is An Innerspring Mattress?

First off, I believe definitions are in order. Most of us know what an innerspring mattress is, but let’s be nice and thorough.

Innerspring mattresses are pretty much the oldest type of mattress in existence and date back to 1871. Jesse James, Theodore Roosevelt, and Steve McQueen all allegedly slept on an innerspring mattress. True, there were sleeping pads available as far back as feudal Japan, but that’s not really what we’re talking about here.

Innerspring Mattress Construction

An innerspring mattress contains some sort of coils. There are a few types of coils that I want to mention here:

  • Open coils. This is the oldest type of design for the oldest type of mattress. Basically, with this type, there are a number of coils held together by a wireframe.
  • Pocketed coils. One finds pocketed coils in a number of newer mattresses. Pocketed coils are each wrapped in some type of fabric and provide superior contouring.
  • Offset coils. These coils shaped like an hourglass and offer excellent contouring as well.
  • Continuous coils. This is pretty much what it sounds like. There is just one piece of wire that creates the entire coil system.

On top of the coils, most innerspring mattresses feature some kind of foam, fabric, or upholstery. While it is possible to find memory foam on top of an innerspring mattress, if it is over 2″, we are entering hybrid mattress territory.

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What Is A Memory Foam Mattress?

Memory foam is a significantly newer mattress material. Charles Yost created memory foam as part of a NASA project back in 1966. Its real name is “viscoelastic polyurethane foam,” but it is commonly referred to as “memory foam.”

It was originally intended to cushion astronauts during the experience of extreme G-force. Since then, it has been used to relieve pressure for millions of Americans. While few of us will know the feeling of shooting out of the stratosphere, we can know the soft feeling of memory foam.

Memory Foam Mattress Construction

This material is really known for its soft, slow-reacting feel. When a sleeper lies on memory foam, they don’t just drop into the mattress. The material slowly compresses under the sleeper’s body weight.

Now, every memory foam is not exactly the same. Some memory foams are extremely slow-moving, while some react a bit more quickly. Also, depending on the density of the memory foam, a mattress may last for many years or only a few. Simply put, the higher the density, the longer the memory foam will last.

RELATED: Memory Foam Vs Hybrid Mattresses

What Are The Main Differences Between Innerspring And Memory Foam Mattresses?

Based on construction, innerspring and memory foam mattresses are different in quite a few ways. First off, the feel is going to be quite different between these two types of mattresses. Innerspring mattresses generally exhibit a good amount of bounce. Also, lying on an innerspring mattress, it is more likely that one will sleep “on top” of the mattress rather than sinking in.

Memory foam, on the other hand, has very little bounce. It is usually very slow to react, and it does allow sleepers to sink into the mattress. It will feel more like sleeping “in” the mattress.

Memory Foam Mattress Feel

Sleeping on an innerspring mattress, it should feel much more easy to move around and change positions at night. Sleeping on a memory foam mattresses, it is easier to feel trapped by the mattress.

Finally, an innerspring mattress is generally going to be more breathable than a memory foam mattress. The main reason for this is that coils leave so much room for air to flow through. With an all-foam mattress, there is usually little to no room for air to pass.

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The Benefits And Drawbacks Of Innerspring Mattresses

So, both types of mattresses have their benefits, and they have their drawbacks. Starting with coil mattresses, there really are helpful in a couple of ways.

As stated above, innerspring mattresses are generally very breathable mattresses. This does a great deal to help with temperature regulation so that the mattress does not trap too much heat. Innerspring mattresses are also very supportive. Coils, especially those of a higher-grade, can handle a great amount of weight.

Back Sleeping On An Innerspring Mattress

At the same time, innerspring mattresses are not the best with motion isolation. Those who sleep with a partner might feel their nocturnal movements transfer to their side of the bed. It doesn’t help that innerspring mattresses can be noisier, especially when they have been in use for a good deal of time. The squeaks and groans can also be very disturbing at night.

Finally, innerspring mattresses don’t always feature the best pressure relief. Their comfort layers are rarely very thick, so side sleepers can expect to feel some pressure on their shoulders and hips.

The Benefits And Drawbacks Of Memory Foam Mattresses

Just like innerspring mattresses, memory foam mattresses also have their pros and cons. Again, memory foam mattresses offer fantastic pressure relief. The material is really designed to cradle sleepers, erasing pressure on joints and heavier parts of the body.

Memory foam also provides fantastic contouring. Sinking into a memory foam mattress, sleepers will feel the material take the shape of their body, again creating a nice hug around the body.

For those couples out there, memory foam also isolates motion quite well. Each partner’s movements should be isolated to their side of the mattress. Also, memory foam mattresses rarely make noise. Even going to the bathroom three times a night shouldn’t disturb one’s partner. They really are some of the best mattresses for couples.

So, the major drawback of memory foam has to do with temperature regulation. Speaking plainly, memory foam can sleep hot. The material actually traps body heat and creates a hotter sleeping surface. It can direct this body heat back at sleepers, causing their temperature to rise throughout the night.

That being said, not all memory foam mattresses are necessarily going to sleep hot. Many companies employ some kind of cooling infusion, like gel, graphite, or copper, to assist with heat dissipation. Mattress shoppers should keep an eye out for these infusions if they are considering memory foam. Make sure to read our article which answers the question: “What is gel memory foam?”

Cooling Memory Foam

As I mentioned above, memory foam mattresses are much less responsive than innerspring mattresses. This can make it much more difficult to move around on a memory foam mattress. Those who switch positions or deal with mobility issues should definitely keep this in mind.

Memory foam mattresses can also give off a serious chemical smell when they are unboxed. This is known as “mattress off-gassing,” and it can be pretty intense at first. That being said, it will dissipate within a few days.

Finally, memory foam can sag. This is not true of all memory foam mattresses, but those that feature a low-density memory foam can start to show body indentations. When this happens, the mattress no longer offers the proper amount of comfort and support.

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Who Should Get An Innerspring Mattress?

  • Those who like to sleep on top of the mattress. Lying on top of an innerspring mattress, sleepers will not sink in too far. This makes this type ideal for people who don’t like to sink into their mattress.
  • People who want to move around easily. Innerspring mattresses are much bouncier and more responsive than memory foam mattresses. Combination sleepers and those with mobility issues are probably going to want to opt for an innerspring mattress.
  • Hot sleepers. While memory foam mattresses are known for trapping heat, this is rarely a problem with innerspring mattresses. The coils promote airflow through the mattress, regulating the temperature and making for a cooler night of sleep.
  • Those who need more support. Coils often provide more support than the support foam found in memory foam mattresses. This makes innerspring mattresses ideal for stomach sleepers, heavier people, and those with extra support needs.

Side Sleeping On Memory Foam

Who Should Get A Memory Foam Mattress?

  • Those who like to sink into the mattress. There’s really nothing quite like memory foam. It lets sleepers slowly sink into the sleeping surface. So, sleepers who like to sleep “in” their mattress, rather than on top, should definitely consider a memory foam mattress.
  • Side sleepers. When it comes to side sleeping, pressure relief is the name of the game. Few materials offer the pressure relief one finds with memory foam. Memory foam mattresses, especially those with a thicker comfort layer, cradle areas like the shoulders and hips, relieving pressure and making for a comfortable night of sleep.
  • People with pain issues. Memory foam can also be a great option for people who deal with joint and muscle pain. Again, memory foam is all about pressure relief. That cradling effect I just spoke of can feel quite soothing for those with chronic pain issues.
  • Couples. Memory foam is one of the best materials in regard to motion isolation. Memory foam can absorb the movements made by sleeping partners, isolating these motions to each side of the bed. Couples should sleep more soundly on a memory foam mattress.


Okay, the battle is over. At this point, it should be much easier to choose between memory foam and innerspring mattresses. I get it, there are a lot of things to consider. However, keeping this info in mind can make mattress buying much less daunting.

If anyone has questions or needs a personal recommendation, please leave a comment below!

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Marten Carlson

Marten is Senior Editor at Mattress Clarity. He covers the mattress industry as well as sleep science news. He is specifically interested in the connection between sleep and overall health. Marten has written for media publications like Consequence of Sound and received a master’s degree in Film Studies from Emory University. He comes from Franklin, Indiana, and spends all the time he can writing, directing, and acting in films. He has directed genre short films and features. His newest film, Starlets, recently premiered at the River Town Film Festival in Clinton, NJ. He also stars in the upcoming thriller, Sour Bear. His next film, At The Hop, is a hot rod actioner with a horror twist.