Need topper for Talalay latex mattress

Hi Phoenix,

First, thank you for your help last year in helping me purchase a Talalay Latex mattress. I found a local manufacturer, Star Bedding in Modesto, and Jason (the owner) was great to work with. I was able to take home two mattresses (27 and 29 ILD) and try them out with no hassle whatsoever.

I am 5’ 5", 140 lbs. and have an L4/L5 issue. I opted to go with 29 ILD (medium firm) as Jason mentioned that you can always soften a hard mattress but it is more difficult to harden a soft one which I agreed with. It is 9" deep. I purchased the mattress and foundation in December 2014 and have since experienced back pain. While not like my previous, desperate situation, but pain none the less. I have started sleeping with two blankets folded up in thirds and then folded over that I put underneath my hips. I am sleeping better and have minimal pain now. So, I think I need a topper. I am hesitant to use anything other than Talalay because I like the advantages all around, but am willing to explore for the sake of comfort.

Questions: Should I stay with a Talalay topper? I see they have shredded and adjustable (you can add or subtract the foam as desired) through flobeds which looks attractive. If I go with a traditional version, what depth would you suggest? 2", 3", ? And what ILD? Some say a 15 ILD is too soft.

I sincerely appreciate your work with helping with this very difficult journey of finding a good nights rest.

All the best to you.

Hi Zing,

Your mattress would most likely have multiple layers with different firmness levels (Talalay latex is made in 6" cores so a 9" mattress would require at least 2 layers). Latex also doesn’t come in exact ILD’s and ILD is always in a range so a Talalay core or layer that was “rated” as a particular ILD could be +/- about 2 ILD and most people don’t notice an ILD difference that is less than about 4 ILD. If your support core is 29 ILD (or 27 ILD which would really the same) then it would be on the soft side for many people.

While there is no way for me to “diagnose” mattress issues (especially when there are also medical issues involved) because there are too many unique unknowns and variables involved that can affect how each person sleeps on a mattress in terms of PPP (Posture and alignment, Pressure relief, and Personal preferences) or any “symptoms” they experience … there is more about the most common symptoms that people may experience when they sleep on a mattress and the most likely (although not the only) reasons for them in post #2 here.

There is also more about primary or “deep” support and secondary or “surface” support and their relationship to firmness and pressure relief and the “roles” of different layers in a mattress in post #2 here and in post #4 here that may also be helpful in clarifying the difference between “support” and “pressure relief” and “feel”.

These posts are the “tools” that can help with the analysis, detective work, or trial and error that may be necessary to help you learn your body’s language and “translate” what your body is trying to tell you so you can make the types of changes that have the best chance of reducing or eliminating any “symptoms” you are experiencing.

Having said that … based on your description the most common reason for lower back pain is a mattress that is too soft so it sounds more likely that your mattress is too soft than too firm. If your folded blanket is also helping you then this would also be “pointing to” a mattress that is “allowing” your hips/pelvis to sink down too much which can certainly cause lower back pain (the blankets would raise your hips and help prevent them from sinking down as far). There are also some suggestions in post #4 here that may be helpful for a mattress that is too soft (including one that is very similar to what you tried)

I would also check the support system under your mattress to make sure that there is no flex or sagging under your mattress which could also contribute to the issues you are experiencing as well. You can check to make sure that the support system is providing suitable support for your mattress by putting the mattress on the floor to see if there is any noticeable difference (and there shouldn’t be).

If your mattress is too soft then adding a topper would likely only be a temporary or partial solution at best and at worst it could make the issues you are experiencing even worse.

If I was in your shoes I would want to have high confidence that you need some additional softness and pressure relief in your mattress surface rather than firmer support in the support layers.

I don’t have any specific suggestions because there isn’t a formula that can predict how any topper will work for a particular person on a particular mattress with any certainty because of all the variables involved and because the choice of which type of topper to choose would be a preference issue … there is more information about choosing a topper in post #2 here and the topper guidelines it links to that can help you use your sleeping experience as a reference point and guideline for choosing the type, thickness, and firmness for a topper that has the least possible risk and the best chance for success. It also includes a link to a list of some of the better online sources for toppers I’m aware of as well.

Given that there is a good chance that a topper may not solve the issues you are experiencing … I would also make sure that you have a good return/refund policy to reduce the risks involved in purchasing a topper that doesn’t work out as well as you hoped for.

If the support core in your mattress is really 29 ILD then it may also be worth talking to Star Bedding to see if they have any suggestions or solutions that may be helpful as well.


Hi Phoenix,

Thank you for your quick response. I am puzzled. Perhaps I may have miscommunicated something. I did quite a bit of research and understood that 29 ILD for Talalay latex is considered medium firm. Here is an excerpt I found on: Latex Firmness ILD

Soft to Medium Latex

A “soft” mattress is one that is so soft that only those who prefer to sink into their mattress will be pleased with the support. The “soft” designation corresponds to an ILD rating of 19-21.

A “medium” foam mattress is an excellent “middle of the road” mattress that blends support with softness, and tends to be a highly popular mattress among side sleepers. The ILD rating for the medium range is 24-26.

In general, because of the distinctive processing techniques, the more aerated Talalay latex tends to be softer than the firmer Dunlop latex, which contains a higher ratio of foam to air.

Medium-Firm to Firm Latex

“Medium-firm” foam mattresses fall into a range of 29-31 ILD. These mattresses are appealing to a wide range of back and stomach sleepers who prefer firm support that still allows enough “give” for a sense of comfort.

A “firm” foam mattress is so firm that few sleepers will find it truly comfortable, but for some back or stomach sleepers this level of support fits the bill. The ILD on firm mattresses ranges from 34-36.

Can you help clarify what is out there on the web? I thought I was on the right track.

I sincerely appreciate your time and response.


Hi Zing,

Mattresses as a whole don’t have an ILD rating and ILD information only applies to individual layers in a mattress. I would also keep in mind ILD/IFD by itself is only one of several factors that can affect the softness/firmness of a material or a mattress as a whole and there are several specs besides just ILD/IFD that can affect how soft or firm a material or a mattress feels. In addition to that an ILD that would be considered to be medium in a comfort layer that is designed to relieve pressure can be relatively soft when it is used as the support core of a mattress. In many cases using ILD/IFD by itself as the only point of reference for firmness/softness without regard to the function of a specific layer or the other specs that can contribute to firmness/softness can be very misleading (see post #4 here and post #2 here).

There is also more about primary or “deep” support and secondary or “surface” support and their relationship to firmness and pressure relief and the “roles” of different layers in a mattress in post #2 here and in post #4 here that may also be helpful in clarifying the difference between “support” and “pressure relief” and “feel”.

There are also no “standardized” definitions or consensus of opinions for overall firmness ratings and different manufacturers can rate their mattresses very differently than others so a mattress that one manufacturer rates as being a specific firmness could be rated very differently by another manufacturer. Different people can also have very different perceptions of firmness and softness compared to others as well and a mattress that is firm for one can feel like “medium” for someone else or even “soft” for someone else (or vice versa) depending on their body type, sleeping style, physiology, their frame of reference based on what they are used to, and their individual sensitivity and perceptions. This is all relative and very subjective and is as much an art as a science. There are also different types of firmness and softness that different people may be sensitive to that can affect how they “rate” a mattress as well (see post #15 here).

The bottom line with all of this is that regardless of how a mattress is “rated” the two most important functions of a mattress and the most important part of any mattress purchase is that the specific design of the mattress keeps you in good alignment and relieves pressure points in all your sleeping positions regardless of its firmness or softness rating or the ILD of any individual layers in the mattress.