I got my Almaz after wearing Bloch Axiums for about a year. I thought I loved my Axiums, until they all started dying in the weirdest spot at the top of the box where it meets the shank of the shoe. After 3 pairs in 8 months my teacher finally caught onto it and had a closer look at them as I was I front of her.
I guess I had been improperly fit with them, being that I have very narrow feet and really compressible toes. So when I was fitted with these it changed the relationship I have with my shoes. Finally they fit snug enough that I no longer had to wear copious amounts of padding and shove spacers in my toes. I can wear minimal pads and I can feel the floor! I couldn't believe it! Within one class I felt like I had improved so much. My balances and turns take almost no effort, and because I'm held up in the throat of the shoe I can really spring onto pointe like we are expected to (I go to a Russian school) without terrible pressure on my big toe. When I'm working across the floor I feel like I'm floating above it.
These shoes last too, when they fit correctly and you buy the proper strength shank for the technique your school works with! They are more expensive off the bat, but they will last and the boxes hold up because they are very hard. No issues with "squeaky" shoes like I did with my Blochs. They are made with high quality materials, and are hand made. When you hold them next to a pair of cheaper shoes even my Father who isn't a dancer can tell the difference in craftsmanship! You also almost get a custom pair of shoes because of the choice in vamp, shank, and width, without the price tag!
I love them so much! Diamonds are a girls best friend!
Disclaimer: I have very small, narrow, and all around tapered feet. Also, I have very mobile metatarsals, or compressible feet. These shoes felt marvelous from the instant I put them on. I wear a street shoe in a 5, but to accommodate toe padding, I went to a length 35 in RP's (beware that this length even changed when i tried on different RP shoes). I would describe the box as pretty tapered, probably the most tapered I have tried at my local dance boutique. I would also say that these shoes run narrower than most brands, such as bloch and suffolk who do not even offer a width small enough for my foot. I purchased a flexible soft shank, and I found it to be much harder than any shank I had felt in an english, french, or american made shoe; be weary of that if you don't have the opportunity to try these on in person before buying them. I think the shoes offer great support, especially for skills like balancing and turning; the shoes wear in well also. It may take you a class or two to get them exactly where you want them, but the box molds really nicely to your toes. I am still wrestling with the shank a little after 4 classes, but it looks pretty good. Also, I didn't know what I thought about not having a drawstring at first, but it's probably my favorite thing about the shoe! In addition, I find the low profile of the shoe to be very flattering, and I like the way it comes up a little at the heel. Make sure to sew your elastic fairly tight because the heel does like to pop off when I'm doing petit allegro in class.