Forkhead box O3A (FOXO3a) is an important transcription factor involved in various human cancers. However, the role of FOXO3a in regulating the invasion and metastasis of gastric cancer cells has not been clarified. Here, we report that FOXO3a overexpression promoted migration and invasion of gastric cancer cells by upregulating cathepsin L. FOXO3a knockdown suppressed migration and invasion and also downregulated cathepsin L expression in gastric cancer cells. Silencing cathepsin L in these cells suppressed FOXO3a overexpression-induced cell migration and invasion. Mechanistic studies revealed that FOXO3a increased cathepsin L promoter activation, and cathepsin L overexpression repressed E-cadherin expression, causing gastric cancer cells to undergo epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Our data reveal a previously unexplored function of FOXO3a in gastric cancer invasion by regulating proteins involved in extracellular matrix (ECM) degradation and EMT. We suggest that FOXO3a may be of prognostic value and a potential therapeutic target in blocking tumor metastasis.