Latex vs Foam, without the quackary

Hi everyone.

Currently I’m sleeping on a mid-high sealy posturpedic with a pillow top. It had been fine while I was sleeping alone. My wife has moved in and now we want a bigger bed, Sealy will be moved to spare bedroom. We would like a California King (i’m very tall). My wife weights about 1/2 my weight, and is not happy with the motion control on our spring mattress when I roll around at night. This has led us to either a latex or foam mattress. Of note, we are both side/stomach sleepers, and I have a remote disc herniation; but our biggest priorities are 1) increased size 2) motion reduction

I’m a physicians, and a bit of a cynic/skeptic as well. Frankly I don’t buy into the organic, healthier aspect of latex, at all (I do try and be environmentally friendly in whenever I can, I promise I will make a carbon donation if I buy foam :slight_smile: ). In fact I’ve found the websites promoting these beds for not giving off “harmful” chemicals that its turning me off as an option. I feel very much like I’m attending some sort of anti-vaccine, anti-pharma meeting when I walk into the stores that carry them. I’m not trying to be ostentatious posting here, rather I just want to know if the latex beds are otherwise worth the extra $$ vs a foam mattress. Frp, what I’ve read, their other advantages seem to be less heat issues and easier to move around on. Some have suggested that the latter benefit is particularly important in those with a history of back pain. But honestly the salespeople deemphasized these and kept coming back to “health benefits”.

We have tried out some Tempur-Pedics and a Sleeptek 3000, which is a Canadian latex bed, both priced around $3000. We found that the Tempur-pedic had better motion suppression (both were significantly better than a spring mattress). My wife preferred the countoured feel of the foam, I was indifferent in terms of comfort between the two. Unfortunately Tempur-Pedic doesn’t sell Cal King in Canada. We are now leaning towards the NovosBed product (Aria) which I have seen good reviews online, it cost $1200. They also have a good try out policy from what I can see.

The 5 minutes I laid on the latex and foam mattresses at a store however is not really enough to give a educated opinion so I thought I’d try and get some feedback here. If you take “toxic chemicals” out of the question, is Latex significantly superior to foam to justify the price differential? Does anyone have personal experience regarding backpain and latex vs foam (not that the back pain has been particularly problematic, even with my spring mattress)?

Thanks for the help!

Hi bedfortallperson,

You can see my “definition” of healthy sleeping in post #4 here.

As far as the “safety” of different materials … the most reliable way to assess this would be the certifications and testing that has been done on them for harmful substances and VOC’s. The most common certification for polyfoam and memory foam is CertiPur (which is an industry sponsored certification) and latex is usually certified by either Oeko-Tex or Eco-Institute which are both independent testing protocols and have more stringent testing standards.

The issue of mattress safety is a complex one and there is a great deal of either exaggerated information or misleading information in the industry on both sides of the argument (whether it’s the natural/organic side of the industry or the parts of the industry that discount or minimize any concerns about the safety of mattress materials and components). There is more about all of this in post #2 here and the additional posts and sources of information that it links to which can help answer the question of “how safe is safe enough for me?” on an individual basis.

The choice of materials and components in a mattress is a personal preference and each person may make a different choice that is better for them. Each type of material or foam (polyfoam, memory foam, or latex foam) has pros and cons that may be attractive to some and not to others in terms of feel, performance, or durability.

You can read more about some of the pros and cons of latex in this article and more about the pros and cons of memory foam in this article and more details about how they compare in post #6 here.

While any material that is certified with a reputable certification standard would be “safe enough” for most people … there are some who may be more sensitive to some materials than others (who may have medical issues such as MCS or have other personal reasons for avoiding most synthetic materials). Anecdotally … there are more people who have sensitivities and reactions to memory foam than there are who have sensitivities or reactions to polyfoam and latex would be the least likely to cause issues although there are some that can have sensitivities or even allergies to latex as well (there is more in post #2 here about latex allergies or sensitivities) although this would be quite rare with the type of latex used in mattresses vs dipped latex such as rubber gloves or condoms.

Latex foam certainly has performance, durability, and breathability benefits that make it attractive to many people and for these the higher cost would be well worth it. I would also keep in mind though that the most important part of any mattress is how well it matches your specific needs and preferences in terms of PPP (Posture and alignment, Pressure relief, and Personal preferences) and the type of material isn’t nearly as important as the specific design of a mattress that uses them. There are latex mattresses that work very well for some people in terms of PPP that would be a completely unsuitable design for someone else to sleep on. The same is true about any other material or type of mattress. If a mattress isn’t a good “match” for the person that buys it in terms of PPP then it would have little value for that person. A mattress that “causes” a back ache or discomfort for one because it’s an unsuitable design may be the best possible mattress for relieving back pain for someone else (to the degree that a mattress can help with this).

The next most important part of a mattress purchase is the durability of the materials and whether there are any obvious weak links in the materials or design. No matter how well a mattress matches your specific needs and preferences at first … if there are low quality materials in the comfort layers especially … they will soften, compress, or break down much more quickly than higher quality and more durable versions of the same material and a mattress that you hoped would last you for a decade may only last you for months or a few years. There would be little value in spending a great deal of money … in some cases several thousand dollars … only to find out that you could no longer sleep on it in a very few years. When you buy a mattress then it’s always important to make sure you know exactly what’s inside it (see this article) so you can identify any low quality materials and make more meaningful comparisons with other mattresses. I would never assume that a higher priced mattress uses better quality materials because in the mainstream industry especially this may not be the case.

After PPP and durability … the other parts of your personal value equation that are important to you would also be a significant part of the “value” of a mattress purchase.

I would also be very cautious with using mattress reviews as a source of reliable information because they will tell you little to nothing about whether a specific mattress is a good match for you in terms of PPP and they usually say nothing about the quality of the materials inside it (see post #13 here for more about reviews).

The “best” way to choose a mattress I know is the tutorial post here which has all the basic information, steps, and guidelines that can help you make the best possible choice for you, know how to test a mattress for PPP, and know how and why to avoid the worst choices. It also includes a link to a list of some of the better online choices for Canada I’m aware of if you are considering an online purchase.

If you let me know your postal code or the city you live in I’d also be happy to let you know about the better options or possibilities I’m aware of in your area.


I too had originally set out looking for a memory foam mattress before finding this site. I was most turned off by the prices, (then just looking at the temporpedics), ridiculously high esp after finding this site and the more reasonable, same construction off brand models. But sticking to the field test ‘guidelines’, I promised not to keep anything off the table, to give each type bed a fair evaluation. Five minutes was a start, but it was only after 20-25 minutes could I really start perceiving each type of mattresses nuances. The memory foam beds I checked out need time and your body heat to really sink in to the depth one would experience when sleeping a full night. With 5 minutes, you’re not getting the whole picture. I found that when I sunk in to a truer depth, allowing the foam to 'cradle me as it will eventually do, it felt supportive but… when I moved to change positions, it took not only effort, (not a big deal as long as I was fully awake, but wonder when in a deep sleep what it would take), but I actually twinged my bad back… YIKES! (I have an old football injury in my lower back along with spinal compression from running a few marathons).I’m getting a bed to help with a back problem, not make one. It happened on more then one model, so I just eliminated the memory foam altogether. I was not swayed either by the 'green talk or the odor, (I never picked one up, but I don’t have a good sniffer anyway). I did find memory foam the best in isolating movements, and it did seem to start to get warmer the longer I laid in one spot. I eventually settled for an all latex due to the ‘hopefully’ more dependable durability and comfort, along with what I would say was the second best in motion isolation I experienced, (but it really did vary from one brand to the next). Hope this helps some, be sure to lay in one spot for a good 20-30 minutes, then try to move. Good luck and don’t settle for just anything. there is a perfect mattress out there for you, (or you two), as there was for me. Just took a few months to find it.

Thanks for the replies!

Yeah my general impression was that the latex would probably be better for me given the comments I read about back pain issues and sinking in. But I’m not really that picky either way. The foam seems like a better option for my wife. With the weight discrepancy, the fact that I toss and turn, and am often out of bed at weird hours for work makes this a big issue for her. So its a question of whether extra motion control for her vs potential back issues for me.

The only problem is that we can’t try out the Novosbed. So its advantages are a little hypothetical vs a bed that certainly seems good quality and would meet most of our needs well enough. Or, as we have been leaning, actual purchase it to “try it out”.

Phoenix thanks for you comments, I get where your coming from in terms of personal value. For me it isn’t just the $ amount of the price difference, we were prepared to spend that kind of money anyways. Its the whole concept of upselling me on stuff I don’t believe in. Clearly the materials used in organic latex beds are more expensive, and I’m sure Tempur-pedic is has a much higher profit margin. I guess there are bad sales people out there everywhere. But I think the latex beds would have a bit more credability if they also emphasized durability, comfort etc and not just some pseudomedical science jargon.

Hi bedfortallperson,

I would keep in mind that the design of a mattress is much more important when it comes to back issues and PPP than the materials in a mattress. Any material or combination of materials and components can be used to make a mattress that is suitable for someone with back issues and not suitable for someone else.

With online manufacturers or retailers … your own experience when you sleep on the mattress would be replacing the process of testing the mattress in a showroom in which case the knowledge and experience of the retailer or manufacturer you are dealing with along with the options you have both before and after a purchase to customize or fine tune the mattress and re-arrange, or exchange the layers or return the mattress itself would likely become a more important part of your personal value equation and lowering the risk of an online purchase.

I completely agree with your comments here. In many cases … the people who spend an hour or two on this site will know more meaningful information than most of the salespeople in the mainstream industry who use “marketing stories” more than accurate information to sell their mattresses.

In many (but not all) cases … the parts of the industry that are part of the “race to the bottom” (using junk materials that they promote as being as good or better than higher quality choices), parts of the organic side of the industry (that focus more on fear mongering than providing accurate and meaningful information), and the major brands and chain stores that are the biggest part of the “mainstream” industry (that are sold on “marketing information or gimmicks” and don’t provide any meaningful information about the quality of the materials inside their mattresses) are the worst offenders and it’s a breath of fresh air when you are dealing with a retailer or manufacturer who really is committed to providing meaningful information and who puts the legitimate best interests of their customers ahead of their own.


[quote=“bedfortallperson” post=36024]Hi everyone.

I’m a physician, and a bit of a cynic/skeptic as well. Frankly I don’t buy into the organic, healthier aspect of latex, at all (I do try and be environmentally friendly in whenever I can, I promise I will make a carbon donation if I buy foam :slight_smile: ). In fact I’ve found the websites promoting these beds for not giving off “harmful” chemicals that its turning me off as an option. I feel very much like I’m attending some sort of anti-vaccine, anti-pharma meeting when I walk into the stores that carry them. [/quote]

Just want to say thanks for what needs to be said. The organic, natural, green thing is a racket… a religion… with the mainstream catering to all the sucker bets ready to fall in line. As you and Phoenix opined, they use FUD as a psychological means to control - Fear, Uncertainity, Doubt.

This what I ended up doing with synthetic/natural blend. I’m still standing and my very recent complete physical and blood work verify that being politically in correct hasn’t hurt me none. :evil:


Hi Mark in Texas,

In some circles … it can be more “politically correct” to be “politically incorrect” depending on the groups you identify with.

As they used to say in the X-Files … the “truth is out there” somewhere and it’s usually not on either side of more extreme positions or beliefs. The goal is always to make informed and educated choices based on the unique needs and preferences of each person regardless of what someone else may prefer and what is “right” for one person may not be “right” for the next.


PS: I deleted your reply after this as it was off topic and not relevant.


“Nothing is ever as good or bad as first perceived.”

Your turn - :stuck_out_tongue:

For anyone in Southern California or elsewhere looking for the Berkeley Ergonomics product at a great deal, I found it at a store in Irvine called Cantoni. The price was better than anywhere else (I checked three different stores) on this all natural and organic product. The latex is from Europe and has no fillers, the cotton cover is organic. As you may or may not know, wool is the best natural FR (fireproofing) you can buy and has no toxic chemicals in it. The wool in the Berkeley bed is generous and all natural and the coil system, as explained by Cantoni’s highly knowledgeable mattress specialist Richard, is from Sweden and is dual tempered carbide steel - built like a tank. The Berkeley Ergonomics bed comes with a 10 year non-prorated warranty, but I have been told by many customers while doing my research that the mattress has lasted them 14+ years thus far. After a year of my own research, I am sold on this product. I have tested every organic mattress by Savvy Rest, Natura, Naturepedic, Vi-Spring (Cantoni carries this as well - but it’s out of my price range). For price, cleanliness, durability and comfort, the Berkeley Ergonomics product just can’t be beat. I hope my extensive research helps some of you find your next mattress and happy shopping! :slight_smile: Wildon

P.S. I have included a picture that I shot while at Cantoni. The bed on the left is the deluxe with a Euro Topper. If you buy it with the topper, you can turn the topper instead of the entire bed, which is better on the back for sure! As Richard explained to me, he has had many customers just buy a new topper after 10 plus years at a fraction of the cost of a new bed. The bed underneath stays unblemished and the topper takes 90% of the bodies abuse.