It's hard to say what to do about your shells without knowing the recipe. I agree with using an Italian meringue. However, if you allow sugar crystals to form in your syrup, either because you heated it up too much, or crystals formed on the edges of your saucepan, then this will also lead to weak shells that will crack.
To get nice shapes is easy. Don't bother guessing. Use a template. Google image search "macaron template" or make one yourself to the desired size. Print this out and when you pipe, place the template under your baking paper/silicon mat. Laminate it so you can reuse it, or just print out a bunch.
You will still need to practice piping. Always pipe from directly overhead into the centre of your circles. Leave about 2-3 mm before the edge since the batter will spread a bit. You can flick your nozzle or do the tiny circular motion, but this does not (in my experience) matter much. If you have the correct consistency, it will flatten out by itself, if it's too thick, you'll get a peak either way.