So, what should you do to prepare to start hiking? I recommend before setting out on any major hikes, especially those requiring good traction, or involving a good deal of elevation change, that you get yourself a good pair of boots and break them in well. Proper preparation will save your feet, and you will thank yourself for it. Good hiking boots are the foundation you have to start with if you want to have a good time and avoid injury when hiking and exploring. So what boots should you buy? I wont claim to be an expert by any measurement. I have, however, gone through a good number of boots until I found that one pair that was perfect for me, so you can heed what I say, or not. I wear and highly recommend Asolo TPS520GV Waterproof Backpacking Boots, but I have friends who have had very good luck with Hi Tec, Scarpa, and Lowa boots.
As far as what I recommend, you can try the aforementioned boots...or not. Just do your research. try a lot of different boots. If you get the chance to borrow a pair from a friend that are your size, take that opportunity. Once you have landed on a pair that fits your needs, shop around for a deal. Take into account the service options that come with buying in certain stores. You can buy online, but make sure to go to a local outdoor store like REI and test before you buy to make sure that the boots are right for you, and that you get the right size. I paid the extra money to buy through REI for their guarantee and service department. People have different beliefs on what should be spent for good boots, but I have found that those boots that are the most expensive, are generally that way with good reason. The build quality is just better. As long as you properly care for them, they can last a long time. My Asolos have lasted for three years so far, and I wear them every day, whether I'm going to work, going out, working in the yard, or going hiking or backpacking. I treat them from time to time to keep them in good shape, and still haven't worn through the Vibram soles they came with. The nice thing is that you can take any boots with Vibram soles to REI and pay to have them professionally resoled by Vibram (although I haven't tested this service yet for quality because I haven't needed to).
As far as conditioning and maintenance goes, if your boots are good quality to begin with you really just need to keep your boots well protected and conditioned to make them really last. I like to use Obenauf's Leather Oil and Leather Preservative.
Whatever your boot choice may be, make sure it fits with your hiking needs, and do plenty of research before you buy. Happy hiking!