The type of support you own will matter a lot when it comes to buying a mattress.

Different mattresses have different bed requirements, but in general there are three types of supports that are most commonly used: box spring, platform and foundation.

People often wonder which of these provides the best support.

The answer is that all of them are good options, depending on the mattress and the desired effect.

Know the differences between each kind, and make sure that when you purchase a new bed, you keep in mind the kind of mattress that will be going on it.

This research will help you get the most satisfying sleep for a longer time.

Box Spring

a box spring to support innerspring mattresses
A box spring is best to support innerspring mattresses

A box spring usually has a wooden frame (the box) designed to distribute and absorb weight on the mattress, sometimes with added steel reinforcements for strength.

A system of a large number of heavy gauge wire coils or a grid is attached to the frame as the mattress support system.

A fabric with skid-resistance usually covers the top and the bottom has a fabric that acts as a dust barrier. The box spring also raises the mattress to a suitable height, escaping dust and the coldest air.

When buying a box spring, you may have a few options such as coil spring beds with cone-shaped wire coils for good support and flexibility of stiff mattresses, or high quality modular grids with square coils for greater durability of the mattress.

Semi-flex grid box springs consist of a wooden frame with a stiff, firm metal grid above slats for support and minimal flexing.

Double-sided Innerspring mattresses are best for use with coil spring and modular grid box springs.

The coils of the box spring move along with the coils of the mattress, and a stiffer mattress can feel softer as the coils flex and move and absorb a lot of the sleeper’s body weight.

Some experts advise that single sided, no-flip coil mattresses don’t last as long as they should when used with box springs.

A few manufacturers say that you can place your latex mattress directly on a box spring, but the weight could make the springs bend and the mattress sag.

Also, those kind of mattresses are designed to provide comfort on their own, so an uneven surface (like a box spring) can disrupt they way they should work.

If that’s the case and you really want to keep your box spring for aesthetic reasons, a neat trick is to put a cheap plywood board between box and mattress, making it much more even and rigid.

Platform Beds

One-sided, no-flip innerspring mattresses (like our favourite, the Saatva Mattress), latex, memory foam, gel memory foam and other modern non-coil mattresses should be used only on firm, flat surfaces like suitable platform beds or foundations (see below).

light wood mattress platform

A platform bed is usually a low bed frame, often with a head and foot board, and a solid panel or wooden slats (usually not more than 3 inches apart) which support a mattress.

Unlike a traditional bed, the platform bed doesn’t need a foundation or box spring to be placed on it before you can place a mattress.

There are many sizes of platform beds available, and since they don’t need a box spring they can be economical to buy.

When buying a mattress, make sure slat widths and materials match with the mattress manufacturer’s recommended usage to avoid voiding warranty.

Inexpensive compress cardboard or particle board platform beds are available, but if you can afford it, always choose solid frames for durability and comfort. You don’t want to end up with a lower-back pain caused by an inappropriate underlying support.

You can choose Asian styles or modern, European styles with clean lines. Many have storage areas underneath.

Classic, traditional platform beds are also available.

You should keep in mind that platform beds have lower profiles. If you are spending a lot of money on a high quality, solid platform bed to last you a long time, you can consider getting an adjustable bed to factor in changes in the body’s demands in the future.


Bed foundation - ideal for many mattress typesA foundation is also a wooden frame with slats, but it is covered in fabric and similar in appearance to box springs. Foundations also act very differently from box springs.

Whereas box springs are designed more for shock absorption and less for support, foundations are designed to simply support mattresses.

Foundations are a popular choice for modern shoppers since coil mattresses are slowly being replaced by foam and memory foam, which require support rather than weight absorption.

This type of bed structure provide a lot of support to mattresses, so if you think your platform bed is not enough for your heavy mattress, you could consider getting a foundation.

Foundations are usually recommended for use with latex mattresses or dense, flexible mattresses like memory foam (like one of our favorites, the Loom & Leaf) than need a sturdy surface.

Standard heights of foundations range from 7 to 9 inches, but you can find lower profiles as well.

In Conclusion

If you have a box spring, it is best used with innerspring mattresses.

The platform bed is the most versatile, since you can place any type of mattress directly on it without a box spring or foundation.

For traditional bed frames (which usually have fewer number of slats than platform beds and therefore poor weight distribution) you will need a box spring or foundation below the mattress for weight absorption.

Also remember that latex or memory foam mattresses should ideally be used with platform beds or foundations, but if your box spring is in good form some manufacturers promise you can still use that.

Lauren Kendrick

Written by

Lauren Kendrick

Updated at September 6, 2021