Master Guide: Latex vs Gel vs Foam vs Inner Spring

Hi All,

Yes I am a newbie here. Like most, I have tried to browse through pages of narratives and comments that often steer off on tangents.
Most will benefit from a simple breakdown. Advice is to go to your local store and try out different mattresses. They all feel good. Plush ones are comfortable, firm ones feel great too :frowning:
I am a light sleeper and would love to reduce motion transfer from my girlfriend. I read to seek out the largest possible foam mattress. I tried them out in the showroom and have a really hard time liking them.

At Macy’s I was being sold on Aireloom’s Hotel Collection build quality, hand made process, and organic cotton among others. Considering my mattress will always have sheets and a waterproof protective mattress cover, do I really need all that?

So how do they all rank?

Latex, Gel (Dr. Scholl’s Technogel), memory foam, individual wrapped inner springs, etc.
Then there are quality grades within each category, and how to combine different layers.

When I realized “organic cotton” and “hand made” were not the most important selling points to me, I also started thinking, are custom made hybrids the way to go? Get a cheaper base and top if off with superior quality latex? For the base (not box spring), are there advantages to a quality individually wrapped inner spring mattress, with a quality latex topper, or just go with a cheaper memory foam base with a latex topper?

I get it, there is no one solution for all of us. Some people like building their own hot rods, some want to drive off with a reliable brand new daily commuter car right off the dealer lot, while some like an off road truck in stop and go traffic. My point is each category can have a rank, and how they should be applied.

Hi Ivanhoe,

I’m not quite clear what your asking or suggesting.

I don’t think that anyone could “rank” the thousands of mattresses available because there are just too many variables and personal preferences involved. It also wouldn’t be possible to “rank” materials because as you say this is also a personal preference and each material has better and worse versions.

I think that eliminating the worst choices in terms of retailers or manufacturers and focusing on the better ones can be one of the most effective ways to find the best possible mattress. This is the reason for the steps that are listed in the linked post after my signature in each post I make. For those who follow these steps … they would bypass Macy’s completely (and most of the other chain stores and mass market outlets) and focus their energy on finding the better local retailers and manufacturers that have the experience and knowledge to provide good guidance and can give them the quality, value, and service that they are looking for.

Who you work with can be one of the most important parts of mattress shopping and then you have the help and guidance you need to “rank” each mattress according to your own personal value equation. It’s always your own “ranking” that is important not the “ranking” of others who may be very different from you.


Hi Phoenix,

I do not know how you find the time, so thanks a lot for all your through responses. I was worried my post may not be clear.
Tempur-pedic was the “Cadillac” of alternatives to spring coil mattresses. Then advancements progressed to gel and latex.

I was told to go with memory foam to reduce motion transfer. After doing some research, I found that the expensive Tempur-pedic’s were not a perfect solution. I am now learning about latex. I have been told by a salesperson than in the near future, all mattresses will be made of some type of foam material, and the industry will eventually do away with inner spring design. So does that mean that inner coil mattress design is obsolete?

Below is an example of a ranking or a list I was asking about.

  1. All natural plant based latex
  2. Hybrid Latex (mix of plant and synthetic)
  3. Latex topper with foam base
  4. Gel?
  5. Synthetic memory foam (the Tempur-pedics of the world)
  6. Latex topper with any mattress base
  7. Inner coil base mattress with foam/gel/latex in a topper or pillow top or Euro top
  8. Individually wrapped coil mattress
  9. Regular mattress
  10. soft carpet with a blanket (joke)
  11. Haystack (not funny)

*thorough responses

Hi Ivanhoe,

Whoever told you about the “death” of innersprings is sadly misinformed IMO. There is as much research being done into various spring designs as there is into various different types of foam and they have a unique feel and response that is a matter of preference and has nothing to do with better or worse.

It’s also true that memory foam is excellent for motion transfer because it has the lowest resilience (how much energy it returns) and highest hysteresis (how much energy it absorbs) of any foam material but memory foam can only be used in the comfort or upper layers of a mattress and the layers below it will also play a role here.

None of these can be “ranked” because they all have advantages and disadvantages and are a matter of preference based on each person’s unique idea of what they like better or what best suits their budget or tastes. One of these options that is “ideal” for one person may be the absolutely worst choice for the next person. Without a specific context … there are no better or worse on the list and they can’t possible be ranked. Each material and combination has advantages and disadvantages. In the overviews … it talks about all the different materials and different types of designs, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and how to determine which types of materials and components are most suitable for each person (except for the soft carpet and the haystack). The two most popular specialty foams are memory foam and latex and there is also an article about the pros and cons of memory foam here and the pros and cons of latex here.

The key is always to know the quality of all the materials in your mattress and this is expecially important with the comfort layers which are the most subject to stress, softening (or compression in the case of fibers) and breakdown.

Just as a single example … an individually wrapped coil mattress still has some type of foam over the coils which would likely be the weak link of the mattress. Knowing the thickness, quality, and durability of the comfort foam would be key to knowing the quality and durability of the pocket coil mattress itself … probably even more than the many variations of the pocket coils themselves. A pocket coil with cheap polyfoam on top won’t last. A pocket coil with latex on top may be one of the best choices possible for some people.

So knowing the quality of the materials is always what counts (this determines durability) along with testing for the two basic functions of a mattress (pressure relief and support/alignment) and making meaningful apples to apples comparisons with other mattresses (based on their materials and components). Everything after that is about preferences rather than “better worse”. Post #5 here may also be worth reading.