This paper presents an optimal Electrical Impedance Tomography (EIT) drive pattern for real-time gesture recognition, which can reduce the measurement time and realize a performance trade-off between the accuracy and the time response. This method is achieved by feature selection and model explanation. We designed eleven hand gestures to verify the proposed approach. Compared to the 8-electrode method, the optimal electrode drive pattern achieved a recognition accuracy of 97.5% with seven electrodes and the measurement time was reduced by 60%. To illustrate the universality of this method, we performed a contact detection experiment. By setting seven labels on the conductive panel and using optimal electrode drive pattern, the detection accuracy reached 100% with seven electrodes and the measurement time was reduced by 85%.