Best topper for innerspring -- bad back and hips

Thanks for helping with my registration problem!

So you already know I’ve been sampling this website for a while, and now I have a real, and describable issue.

I had an ancient mattress topped with a 3" memory foam topper that was great for a decade but definitely dead. After reading here and anywhere else I could find, I bought the Original Mattress Factory’s 9" latex mattress. I have both back and hip issues, and knew the 11" would be great for the hip but might kill the back. Well, it turned out the 9" also killed the back. I couldn’t walk the first week, but I was patient. It got a lot better, but, finally, after I had had the mattress a month, I decided my body couldn’t take any more.

I have a Pratt and Leggett adjustable base, which I absolutely love, and at OMF that limited me to just two more mattresses, not counting the two latex. I was afraid of the memory foam, lest my back also sink too far into it as it had the latex. The memory foam passed the one-hour test on the floor, but so had the 9" latex, so I didn’t trust it. I decided to buy the Orthopedic innerspring, then top it with a latex or foam topper. This is essentially the setup I had been very happy with for years.

I know I should have logged in here at the beginning of the process, but it seemed like I was being diligent. My Orthopedic arrives Thursday. I won’t order a topper till I’m okay with that. But, assuming that’s okay, I need to choose a topper. I am 5’2" and weigh 103 lbs. I have a bad back (some disc damage in the lumbar region), but a brilliant PT and daily exercises have kept me in good shape for the last three years – till I met that latex mattress. I fall asleep on my back but I think I must switch quickly and pretty permanently to my side. My hips have started to send out red flags that they’re going to need serious attention one of these days.

Based on what I’ve read here, I assume I should start with a 2" topper, not only because of my size but also because I don’t want the spinal alignment distorted. I’m somewhat limited by my requirement for a full XL topper; they’re definitely not standard. (A number of places will custom make a full XL for you, but you can’t return it.)

The Full XL requirement limits me in latex toppers to absolutecomfortonsale’s Tally-O (24 ILD), which is $570. That wouldn’t keep me from eating, but wow!

In foam, I have seen two that meet criteria of being made in the US and listed on your list of preferred providers. First is selectfoam’s 5.34 lb. gel infused (13-14 ILD) at $269.

Next are two options at The 4 lb 12 ILD, which they call medium soft, is $170. The 5 lb. 15 ILD which they call medium firm, is $215.

All of these are for 2" toppers. All have comfort warranties, so if I found I really needed a 3" I could trade up. It doesn’t help that the ILDs on the memory foam and the latex aren’t comparable.

I never had a “sleeps hot” issue with my old memory comfort topper but it was ancient and who knows what it was. So I don’t know if I need the gel infused, but I’m certainly impressed by everything I read about selectfoam on your site. The advantage of myluxurymattress is certainly cost, plus perhaps things I don’t know about. But I would discard cost. In reality, I can afford any of these that represents the right product, including the latex, shocked though I may be by the price tag.

I’d be grateful for any thoughts you have on the topper issue – including all the issues I’ve missed or distorted!

Hi butterpat,

I think the first thing I would do is decide between memory foam and latex in terms of which one you prefer for a topper. This is a matter of personal preference so it’s not something that I would advise on beyond making sure people know the differences between them. Given that your previous experience with memory foam was good … I would probably be leaning in that direction.

Because of your medical issues … you would also likely be outside of the norm and my tendency would be to stick with mattress materials that had worked well for you in the past. There are so many complications involved when people have unusual circumstances or have a “sleeping memory” that can cause issues when they sleep on something different that it’s probably safer to go with the familiar than with something that may take some adjustment (such as the latex mattresses you tried).

Part of the challenge as well is that people who are thinner or lower weights often have opposing preferences on either end of the scale. Some seem to do better with firmer mattresses where they don’t sink in as much (they are not as prone to pressure issues) while others prefer much softer materials which allow their lighter weights to sink in more than firmness levels that would work well for people that were heavier.

Based on your comments that you did well with an “old” mattress and a 3" memory foam topper … it seems that you are probably on the softer side which may be why the latex didn’t work as well for you. Their 9" latex mattress uses a 30 - 34 ILD latex core which would be on the firm side for most people that were side sleepers … especially if it was on a firm foundation. It has a relatively thin quilting layer of softer polyfoam but this wouldn’t be a thick enough comfort layer for most side sleepers that needed to sink in more.

What may have happened here is that they put their mattresses on an active boxspring that flexes and if you take the same mattress and put it on a non flexing frame then it will be firmer. If you are a side sleeper and are on a mattress that is too firm … then there can be a tendency to “twist” away from the firmness which can also cause alignment issues and of course joint pain. In some cases as well … mattresses that are too firm can cause misalignment of the spine just like mattresses that are too soft. This diagram gives an example.

Normally I would consider this to be “safer” yes but your previous experience indicates that 3" may work better. This would also depend on the type of mattress and topper you were using when things were doing well for you because I don’t know how much soft foam was on top of the mattress or the type of memory foam you were using.

I would also tend towards softer materials of either 19 ILD or less in latex (24 may be on the firm side for you) or perhaps 4 lb memory foam although lower density in memory foam density doesn’t always translate into softer. I would talk with each merchant to make sure that whatever you were ordering was a softer version of memory foam regardless of density … making sure you explain your circumstances and “specs”. Your conversations will probably go a long way to helping you decide.

It would also be helpful to know which model of the OMF Orthopedic you ordered because it comes in different versions and the more soft foam there is on top the less thickness you would need in a topper.

These prices seem high to me as well and that’s quite a premium to pay for a return privilege (and you will still pay for shipping). It may also be worth considering ordering a queen size that is less expensive (and has a return privilege) and testing it first to make sure it works and then either returning it if it doesn’t work or cutting it down to size if it does (which is easy with an electric knife) and altering the cover (assuming that you or someone you know can sew) because you need a cover with latex.

My tendency overall would be to replicate what you had previously with memory foam as closely as possible (even though you don’t know the details of your previous mattress or topper) and if you did go with latex then I would tend towards with 19 or even 14 ILD. The thickness would depend on estimating how much more softness you needed to get close to what you had once you had slept on your new mattress.

Gel memory foams are a little more supportive (the gel improves the sag factor or how far you sink in) and they can also reduce the initial sleeping temperature until the temperature difference evens out. If either of these are important to you it would be worth considering.

Hope this helps.


I’m sorry for the delay in reacting to your generously detailed response. But the good part of the delay – which did, however, allow me to sleep in my own bed – is that my innerspring mattress has been delivered. It is the Original Mattress Factory’s Orthopedic Adjustable model – a model I needed to buy for my adjustable bed. The good news is that it is wonderful. I’ve slept on it four nights now and awakened with literally no back pain. My hips hurt, but I knew I was going to have to get a topper to please them. The mattress is 11 ½ " high and, while it felt quite firm in the showroom, it didn’t feel like a rock like some of their 9" innersprings. So I’m very happy with this.

Now for the topper! I know it’s really important for me to call the places whose mattresses I’m considering, and I will be as meticulous as I know how to be with that. But first I thought I should make sure I’ve understood your input and react to some of yours.

I think this decision is almost made for me, though I have come up with one latex possibility in my final candidates, about which more later. I really did like the feel of the latex mattress I just donated to charity, but my back didn’t like it. And I appreciate your observation that since I’ve had one good experience with memory foam, that gives it an edge.

This is the tough one. I, too, have no clue what was in my 35-year-old mattress or my 10-year-old topper, though the topper was advertised as memory foam and imprinted as memory foam for several years; at some point it lost the ability to do that.

The only latex possibility is FoamOrder’s Natural Sense. They don’t stipulate the ILD, so I’ll have to get that on the phone.

Now that you know I have the OMF Orthopedic Adjustable, I’m wondering if that would sway you to either 2" or 3"?

Is more supportive a negative when I’m looking for padding for my arthritic hips? Is there perhaps a comparable Sealy, S&F, etc. that I could readily find and test in a store so that I have a sense of the material?

So, at least until I hear from you about the above, the toppers I’ve focused on to examine through phone calls seem to come down to the following:


SelectFoam Select HD (the gel infused product):
 5.34 lb., 3", 13-14 ILD
 5.34 lb., 2", 13-14 ILD
MyLuxuryMattress (the only 4 lb. toppers available (in full XL) that are returnable)
 5 lb., 15 ILD, med. Firm 3"
 5 lb., 15 ILD, med. Firm 2"
 4 lb., 12 ILD, med. Soft, 3"
 4 lb., 12 ILD, med. Soft, 2"

FoamOrder’s PostureSense:
 5.3 lb, 3"
 5.3 lb., 2"
Note: no ILD’s specified; 4 lb. toppers not returnable.


FoamOrder’s Natural Sense:
 Soft (not more specific than that on website), 2.8"
 Soft, 1.8"
(The Tally O Two topper from Absoluteomfortonsale didn’t make it to the final list because the softest one they have is the 2 incher at 24 ILD, which they call medium soft. You thought 24 might be too hard for me.)

I feel like I’m not in a bad place now. I’m sleeping well on this mattress and getting up with a back that feels great. I can live with a little hip pain (and it’s less than it was on my old mattress) while I’m settling on the topper.

Thank you for all your help!

Hi butterpat,

So far so good … that’s good news :slight_smile:

This probably indicates that it was a lower density which often translates as a softer version of memory foam (although even higher density mamory foam can be made softer or firmer as well).

The adjustable version is about the same thickness as their “luxury firm” and their pillowtop but I’ve never slept on it and each may have different ILD’s in the foam they use so I don’t know its relative firmness from experience.

In addition to this … the perception of softness and firmness is very subjective and depends on many factors including what each person is used to, their body type, their sleeping position, and on other factors as well (including their sensitivity to pressure). As a general guideline though I would suggest that in terms of extra softness and pressure relief …

1" would add “a touch to a little”
2" would add “a little to a fair bit”
3" would add a fair bit to a lot"

In addition to this … heavier weights would lean towards thicker and/or firmer while lighter weights would lean towards thinner and/or softer.

I realize these are also somewhat vague and subjective but like all things connected to mattresses it’s not possible to know for certain without personal experience or a reference point of testing the specific combination you are considering and knowing how you feel on each.

More supportive in this context means that the layer gets firmer a little faster as it is compressed. It can “start off” softer with initial compression but then can “catch up” to less supportive foams so that it becomes firmer with deeper compression. It’s not really a negative or a positive but “more supportive” means that there would be less risk of alignment issues because you wouldn’t “go through” the layer as easily with the heavier parts of your body and you wouldn’t be “in” the mattress quite as much … all other things being equal.

Because there are so many variations of foams (both gel foam and regular memory foam) … a conversation with the supplier would be the best way to know which was most appropriate for you. They will have much more experience with the specific materials they use than I do. I would also bear in mind that less temperature responsive memory foams that are faster responding may also feel softer to most people because they don’t take as long to get soft as the types of memory foam that takes more time to soften with heat. How quickly and how much you move while you are sleeping can also play a role in how soft a memory foam feels to you (think of slapping honey vs slowly sinking into it).

You wouldn’t be able to “match” the feel with a “major manufacturer” mattress because they don’t provide specific information about the materials they use and in the types of complex layering of unknown materials they use you wouldn’t know which combination of layers you were mostly feeling. The layers above and below every other layer will contribute to how each layer feels and performs. The exceptions to this would be any mattresses they have tested and used as a specific reference point. For example they may know how their memory foams respond compared to the different versions of Tempurpedic memory foams.

I would include most of the options you included in your list as good candidates and in your conversations with them I would stress your circumstances and your desire for “softer” memory foam and then go by what they say. The only one I would hesitate to include because it doesn’t meet my memory foam criteria is the Foam Order higher density memory foam which I believe is sourced in China and isn’t CertiPur certified (EDIT: this has now changed … see post #10 here).

Foamorder sells Dunlop toppers which would be firmer than Talalay. Soft in Dunlop is relative to other Dunlop toppers and generally wouldn’t feel soft as “soft” Talalay even in the same ILD. I would guess it would be mid 20’s unless their own experience or information indicated otherwise.

FWIW … and bearing in mind that I can’t feel what you are feeling on your mattress … my tendency would be to go with 2" of “softer” memory foam (going by the descriptions of the supplier and using the “guidelines” I mentioned earlier) because it’s less risky than 3" and because there is already some softer foam in the comfort layers of your mattress. It may even be a good idea to stick with no topper for the first few weeks so that your mattress has time to go through the initial softening and breaking in period (which can take up to about 90 days or so but 30 days is generally a good indication) and that you have also had a chance to adjust to a new sleeping surface. Once this has happened … then it will be easier to make your choice based on the longer term feel of the mattress.
Hope this helps.



Well, it turns out I had quite a few weeks. I’ve been spending my time transferring my mother to a nursing home, getting rid of her apt., etc. But my OMF adjustable therapeutic mattress has met the extended test just fine. My back is good; I have a little pain in my right hip. So now I’m back to finding a topper to solve that issue. But I haven’t done what I expected to do by this point: contact the manufacturers of the memory foam toppers we settled on as “finalists.” And that is because I ran across a stumbling block: I heard that you can use an electric blanket with latex but not with memory foam. I have an ancient, drafty house that I could never afford to make totally tight, and I can’t imagine living without my electric blanket. Now, I did use an electric blanket with my old 3" unnamed memory topper, which lasted roughly 10-12 years.

I know you have had a bias toward memory foam for me because I had a good experience with it. And I did not have a good experience with a 9" OMF latex mattress. But is that because it did not meet my support requirements but might meet my comfort requirements? I loved the feel of the latex.

Alternatively, could I buy a memory foam topper, use the electric blanket, and replace the topper every five years?

After your thoughts on these two approaches, I think I’m looking at talking to manufacturers in two categories:


Customsleepdesign 100% Talay latex 2" topper. They don’t give ILDs, but it comes in eight densities, from ultra soft to very firm. I logged in and gave my height, weight, etc. and got back a preliminary custom design that has soft foam from the top of the mattress down 42 inches, and ultra soft in the 33 inches from that point to the bottom of the mattress. This design is actually for a mattress, not a topper. i don’t know if they zone their toppers, though if you click on the picture in their topper section, it is a zoned king. They have emailed me, so I know they’ll be happy to talk. They have both 2" and 3".

(You eliminated FoamOrder’s Natural Sense from this list because it is Dunlop and would be harder than Talalay.


These two options haven’t changed since my last post:

My Luxury Mattress 4 (12 ILD) or 5 (15 ILD) lb., 2" or 3". Probably the 4 lb. to get the softness
SelectFoam 5.34 lb., 13-14 ILD, 2 or 3"

(You eliminated FoamOrder’s Posture Sense from this list because it is sourced in China)

As for depth:

I’m definitely leaning toward a depth of 2" rather than 3" based on the fact that I’m not having major hip problems on the new innerspring. None of these manufacturers offer a 1" (almost nobody seems to), so 2" would seem to be it.

Sorry about that electric blanket monkey wrench!

I look forward to hearing from you – and to finally getting a topper.


Hi butterpat,

You heard correctly and an electric blanket is generally not a good idea with memory foam because it would make the memory foam softer than it would normally be or affect its properties in unpredictable ways and could even damage it … even though you seem to have “gotten away” with it before. It would also depend on the setting of the electirc blanket of course and on how long it was being used over the course of the night.

I generally tend to suggest what people are most familiar and comfortable with so that they don’t have to introduce new variables into the picture but if you loved the “feel” of latex then in the right firmness level it can be just as pressure relieving as memory foam and the warmth of the electric blanket wouldn’t affect its performance.

You can see the ILD’s of the Custom Sleep Design toppers in this chart (they offer the 8 firmness levels that are listed on Latex International’s site).

As you mentioned … I would also talk with any supplier in person because a phone conversation that can take into account what is under the topper will be more accurate than an “automated system” that includes other materials in the mix and I know they do this with topper suggestions (and I didn’t realize they offered zoned toppers until I called to check today and found out it is relatively new).

The only place that offers 1" Talalay toppers that I’m aware of in all the ILD’s is Sleep Like a Bear.

The remaining “possibilities” you’ve mentioned are all good ones and well worth a conversation to ask your questions and see what they suggest IMO.



I had a good conversation with Bob Zukowski at Custom Sleep Design. He thinks I need a firmer latex topper than I thought I did in order to maintain spinal alignment. Since my back problems are more critical than my hip problem (which will end up being replaced some day), he thinks accommodating my back should be the first priority. He suggests a zoned 2" topper with latex with a 24 ILD (medium soft) extending from the top of the bed to about my belly button, with latex with a 28 ILD (medium) going from there to the bottom. Because these would be two separate pieces of latex in a cover, they could be replaced individually if necessary. CSD does not ordinarily offer their free 90-day exchange on toppers, but they’re going to be generous with me because I have a problem (and probably because I’m a member of this forum, though that wasn’t said). The price would be $499. He thinks I’m way too small to get any benefit from 3" of latex and thinks that would be “overselling.”

These ILDs are, of course, higher than your suggestions of 14-19 and I’m trying to figure out what to think of them. I checked the latex mattress I had from the Original Mattress Factory, and its comfort layer was 17-21, and indeed I think I experienced spinal alignment problems on it. Certainly my back was very unhappy. My back is doing well on my OMF innerspring. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than I ever expected. I wouldn’t want the topper to make it unhappy. (I recently made it very unhappy one night by raising the head of my adjustable bed by about 4 inches to alleviate some sinus drip. My back let me know that was not a good idea.)

And if I’m going to look at these higher ILDs, the Tally-O Two from Absolutecomfortonsale moves back on the table. I had taken it out of consideration because it’s a 24 ILD. At $570, it’s more expensive, but not by enough to be a deciding factor. But it doesn’t have the advantages of zoning – at least it seems to me zoning would be an advantage presuming CSD and I get it right!

I have so far not received return calls from either Myluxurymattress or Selectfoam (and I’ve called twice), which were the memory foam candidates. Since the electric blanket issue raised its head, they don’t seem like great candidates, but I thought I would raise the issue with them if I can get through. Myluxurymattress describes its 4 lb 12 ILD foam as “medium soft,” as Custom Design describes the 24 ILD latex that would be under my spine. We know the numbers aren’t comparable; are the descriptors?

What do you make of all this?


Hi butterpat,

The most important part of the suggestions I made are these …

The “softer latex” comment was a generic comment based on very limited information in the earlier part of our discussion and your need for more pressure relief but was certainly not meant as a specific suggestion that would take all the many factors that are important in a final choice that you would want to take into account. I’m mentioning this so that you are very comfortable “throwing away” any suggestions that anyone makes on a forum (including me) with only more limited information available as being anything more than one reference point or possibility out of many factors that need to be taken into account … especially when it conflicts with a more in depth and detailed conversation with someone who “knows their stuff”.

The most important part of all the suggestions are the ones that say to have a more extended conversation with the manufacturer or supplier you are working with that can take into account all the “conflicting” issues that you are dealing with and make the best possible suggestion based on more detailed, interactive, and “connected” communication that can happen with a conversation than is possible on a forum.

So I would be very comfortable going with Bob’s suggestions which I believe are good ones and well thought through.



We have been talking about the woes of Custom Sleep Design on another post, so you sort of know where things stand with me. But I thought it might be a good idea to put a summary of my status on this original post.

The last time I posted I told you I was inclined to order a zoned topper from CSD. I did so on 2/19 and received the topper on 3/21, which I regarded as decent service. However, Bob and I agreed (two weeks later) that my hip, which still hurt, would benefit from a softer density in the bottom 2/3 o f the topper. This agreement and commitment to resend one layer dates to 4/4. On 5/7 I contacted him to see what was wrong; he told me his sister had died and he’d been busy but promised to get my substitute off immediately. I emailed again on 6/14. That email was never answered, and now my phone calls are not returned either.

Thanks to your post on the subject, I now know why. I’m having hip pain and am not sure what I’ll do. I’ll give him some more time, but, then, I guess I’ll have to bite the financial bullet, and start again. This is really outrageous. I’d be far more sympathetic if he notified all his clients who are hanging in mid-air that he is experiencing financial difficulties but pledges to fulfill his commitments to them eventually. The refusal to answer phone calls and emails is childish and unprofessional.

Thanks for your help in this situation.

Hi butterpat,

As you mentioned in your earlier post … they don’t normally do exchanges on their toppers but they also made a commitment to you that they would make an exception so I agree that they should certainly keep their commitment.

I’m also not sure that the difficulties are financial (or the degree that this may play a role) because they lost their lease and are working towards implementing a new business plan but I do agree with you that regardless of all the factors involved in any changes they are going through they have not handled this very well at all and I am not impressed with their lack of communication (to their customers and to me). Have you tried emailing him at the email address here?



Yes, that’s the email address I have for him.