BACKGROUND:Footwear has the potential to influence balance in either a detrimental or beneficial manner, and is therefore an important consideration in relation to falls prevention. The objective of this study was to evaluate balance ability and gait patterns in older women while wearing prototype footwear and insoles designed to improve balance. METHODS:Older women (n = 30) aged 65 - 83 years (mean 74.4, SD 5.6) performed a series of laboratory tests of balance ability (postural sway on a foam rubber mat, limits of stability and tandem walking, measured with the Neurocom® Balance Master) and gait patterns (walking speed, cadence, step length and step width at preferred speed, measured with the GAITRite® walkway) while wearing (i) flexible footwear (Dunlop Volley™), (ii) their own footwear, and (iii) prototype footwear and insoles designed to improve dynamic balance. Perceptions of the footwear were also documented using a structured questionnaire. RESULTS:There was no difference in postural sway, limits of stability or gait patterns between the footwear conditions. However, when performing the tandem walking test, there was a significant reduction in step width and end sway when wearing the prototype footwear compared to both the flexible footwear and participants' own footwear. Participants perceived their own footwear to be more attractive, comfortable, well-fitted and easier to put on and off compared to the prototype footwear. Despite this, most participants (n = 18, 60%) reported that they would consider wearing the prototype footwear to reduce their risk of falling. CONCLUSION:The prototype footwear and insoles used in this study improve balance when performing a tandem walk test, as evidenced by a narrower step width and decreased sway at completion of the task. However, further development of the design is required to make the footwear acceptable to older women from the perspective of aesthetics and comfort. TRIAL REGISTRATION:Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry. ACTRN12617001128381 , 01/08/2017 (retrospectively registered).